Lost hiker died because he drank too much water

A lost hiker in Tasmania reportedly died of exercise-associated hyponatremia, a condition caused by drinking too much fluid during prolonged exercise. Photo / Thinkstock
A lost hiker in Tasmania reportedly died of exercise-associated hyponatremia, a condition caused by drinking too much fluid during prolonged exercise. Photo / Thinkstock

A man who became lost on a Tasmanian bushwalk probably died because he drank excessive amounts of water, a coroner has found.

Salvation Army officer Jonathan Paul Dent, 29, became lost during a four-hour walk through the Dial Ranges in the state's northwest on April 19, 2011.

He called his wife a a number of times to say he was lost and in one sounded flustered and out of character, telling her, "I thought you were coming to get me. I need you to help me."

Rescue crews found his body in bushland two days later.

Tasmanian coroner Michael Brett found that Mr Dent most likely died from exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH), a condition caused by drinking too much fluid during prolonged exercise.

"I find that the most likely cause of death was exercise-related hyponatremia, which itself resulted from excessive consumption of water during the course of the prolonged exertion of the bushwalk," Mr Brett said.

"It is impossible to determine whether the condition resulted from the circumstances after Mr Dent had become lost and disoriented, or alternatively was in fact the reason why he became lost and disoriented."

A medical expert's report prepared for the coroner said EAH sufferers had trouble concentrating and typically end up confused.

"Once the (EAH) process has started the ability to concentrate and solve the 'I'm lost' problem is diminished significantly, as appears to have happened in this case," Clinical Professor Anthony Bell said.

Mr Brett said Prof Bell was highly critical of the general public perception that one should drink "as much as possible" and avoid becoming dehydrated during prolonged strenuous exercise.

"Professor Bell's comments, and the circumstances of this case, suggest that there is a need for greater education in the community in relation to the danger associated with excessive consumption of fluid during exercise," Mr Brett said.

Mr Brett also said he suspected that Mr Dent would have been in a substantially better condition to cope with his disorientation and fear from being lost, had he not been walking alone.

"It is possible, although far from certain, that had he been in company, and as a consequence, had assistance in finding his way to his destination, that he may have survived."

Victorian-born Mr Dent had experience in bushwalking and was carrying his phone, maps, food, a first-aid kit and a one-litre bottle of water on the trek.

- AAP

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