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22.06.2019 | Images in Forensics

Asphyxiated while hunting for treasure: an unusual geocaching fatality

Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology
Ľubomír Straka, Martin Janík, Petr Hejna
Wichtige Hinweise

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Geocaching is a high-tech treasure-hunt game that uses GPS-enabled devices or smartphone apps to find cleverly hidden treasures marked by GPS coordinates that are shared online. Like any other outdoor activity, geocaching is associated with risks of falls, environmental injuries, asphyxia and natural events. Despite the apparent risk of serious injury and potential death, no relevant reports aiming to identify the characteristics of geocaching-related deaths have appeared in the medical literature to date. We report a case of an experienced geocacher who was found suspended from a bridge pillar with his climbing ropes and helmet straps twisted across his face and neck; he had apparently attempted to rappel from a 30-m-high railway bridge to find a geocache. A recording of the rappelling sequence from the camera found on the chest strap assisted in reconstructing what had actually happened. An autopsy confirmed that the cause of death was asphyxiation due to hanging, with the occlusion of the external airways and positional asphyxia serving as contributory factors. The salient features of this unusual case are discussed, and several forensic issues of geocaching are highlighted.

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