Cause of local man's death released
June 19, 2019
Two and a half months after local fisherman James Savstrom, 70, was found dead on the Blackfoot River west of Lincoln, the state crime has lab released its findings in his cause of death.
Information provided by Lewis and Clark County Sheriff/Coroner Leo Dutton listed Savstrom's primary cause of death was Atherlosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease, also known as hardening of the arteries. Hypothermia was listed as the secondary cause of death.
According to Dutton, Savstrom's heart disease could have been exacerbated by the cold or by exerting himself.
Accidental hypothermia can occur in temperatures above 32 degrees and hypothermia victims often include older adults and people who remain outdoors for long periods of time, according to the Center for Disease Control. A 2006 CDC report on hypothermia-related deaths noted that people with cardiovascular disease can have fatal arrhythmias when their core body temperatures fall below 95 degrees. Studies have also shown that exposure to cold weather increases heart rate, blood pressure and clotting, which increase the chances of heart attack in individuals with atherosclerotic plaques in their arteries.
The high temperature recorded for the Lincoln area April 2 was about 52 degrees Fahrenheit, with a low of about 25 degrees over the night of April 2-3.
Due to the circumstances of Savstrom's death, authorities sent his body to the State Crime Lab in Missoula to determine the cause of death. The wait for the final toxicology report from the lab caused the delay in the release of official information on the cause of death.
Savstrom's unexpected death led to plentiful rumors about the cause. One such rumor indicated a head injury and broken arm played a role in his death, but Dutton told the BVD no such injuries were noted in the report.
Lewis and Clark Search and Rescue found Savstrom on the morning of April 3, after a concerned friend called the Lewis and Clark county Sheriff's Office April 2 with concerns. The caller had noticed Savstrom's truck parked along Highway 200 near the Powell County line for an unusually long time.