FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - A sweat lodge in central Arizona where two people were overcomeand later died lacked the necessary building permit, an officialsaid Monday.
Yavapai County building safety manager Jack Judd said therewas no record of an application or permit for a temporary structureat the Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona.
At any one time, 55 to 65 people attending the "SpiritualWarrior" program hosted by self-help expert and author James ArthurRay were crowded into the 415-square-foot space during a two-hourperiod Thursday night, Yavapai County sheriff's officials said.
Kirby Brown, 38, of Westtown, N.Y., and James Shore, 40, ofMilwaukee died after being overcome in the sauna-like hut, whichwas built specifically for the five-day retreat. Nineteen otherpeople were hospitalized with symptoms ranging from dehydration tokidney failure. One remained in critical condition Monday, and twoothers were in fair condition.
Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said authorities believeRay's staff either participated in erecting the structure oroversaw the construction. Ray's spokesman, Howard Bragman, declinedto comment on the permit but said the resort's staff was undercontract to build a sweat lodge to accommodate up to 75 people.
Resort owners Amayra and Michael Hamilton did not immediatelyreturn calls to their home and the resort Monday. However, AmayraHamilton said Saturday the sweat lodge, which was built with a woodframe and covered with layers of tarps and blankets, had been takendown.
Judd said no inspection of the structure was conducted beforeit was dismantled.
Verde Valley Fire Chief Jerry Doerksen, whose departmentresponded to the initial 911 call of two people not breathing, saidhis department regularly inspects the Hamiltons' property. He saidthe couple never hesitates to ask questions, raise concerns oraddress issues brought up by fire officials.
An inspection of the fire area used to heat thecantaloupe-sized rocks that were taken into the sweat lodgedetermined it "would have been a legal fire," Doerksen said.
"Where they had the fire, they had a big area outside of itthat was cleared," he said. "There wasn't a risk of it spreadingsomeplace."
The sheriff's office is investigating to determine ifcriminal negligence played a role in the deaths or illnesses. Testsfor contaminants ruled out carbon monoxide poisoning as a cause.
Autopsies on Brown and Shore were conducted, but the resultsare being withheld pending additional tests.
Sweat lodges -- used by American Indian tribes to cleanse thebody and prepare for hunts, ceremonies and other events -- are acommon practice in the area. Most are on private property and holdno more than a dozen people, Doerksen said.
Large-scale sweat lodges appear to create a "new challengefor us," he said.
Talks are planned between his department and county officialsto consider issuing health warnings for events such as sweat lodgesthat would include suggestions on how long to stay in.
"It's the same with hot tubs and saunas," Doerksen said."Most of the time in a motel, it will say do not stay in there morethan 10 to 15 minutes. What we're looking at is the same kind ofthing."
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