The human cost of heat: Benedict Smith Sr., 72

Friday, 13 October 2017, 07:54:17 PM. Benedict Smith Sr. died at the age of 72. Complications of hyperthermia were ruled as the cause of his death, according to an autopsy.

Benedict Smith Sr., 72

He loved to be outside. If it was raining or if the heat was beating down on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Benedict Smith Sr. would be taking it all in.

He was a former tribal council member, his stepdaughter, Cindy Paya, said. Though he was her stepfather, she said he raised her for much of her life, treating her as if she were his own daughter.

Benedict Smith Sr. died at age 72. Complications of hyperthermia were ruled as the cause of his death, according to an autopsy prepared by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office.

Hyperthermia occurs when the body’s heat-regulating processes malfunction and a person’s temperature spikes, according to the National Institutes of Health.

When police officers found him, lying about 20 feet away from the red electric scooter he used to get around, it appeared he had likely been stuck at that spot near the Verde River for hours.

Phoenix reached 109 degrees that day, Aug. 7, 2016.

His family was called to a nearby hospital, where he was eventually pronounced dead. His autopsy noted he had second-degree burns over 21 percent of the surface of his body.

For his family, the death was a shock.

“We were thinking: He’s used to being outside, he loves being outside,” Cindy said.

Benedict loved his scooter. It meant independence after driving became too dangerous. Cindy said the tribe bought it for him. Her father traversed the reservation seated in the scooter from the gas station, where he’d retrieve the newspaper, to houses of different family members scattered across the area. He’d go for miles.

“When he got that, there was like no stopping him,” she said.

He was never the kind of person to stay home. And he was stubborn. But he knew to check in.

“He always came back,” Cindy said. “And he always called.”

Before retirement, he was a heavy equipment operator for the City of Phoenix. He was incredibly involved on the reservation.

“Everyone knew him.”

 

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Article The human cost of heat: Benedict Smith Sr., 72 compiled by www.azcentral.com