A 31-year-old former Mundelein resident and 2004 graduate of Stevenson High School died Saturday after being bitten by a rattlesnake while hiking on a mountain trail in Colorado.
Sheriff's officials in Jefferson County, Colorado, said they were called to a trail in Mt. Galbraith Park on the western outskirts of Denver at 12:40 p.m. to assist hiker Dan Hohs, who had been bitten by a rattlesnake while he was hiking with a woman about a mile and a half from the trailhead.
Jenny Fulton, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said it took about 22 minutes for deputies to reach Hohs, who was conscious when they arrived. Paramedics arrived about five to 10 minutes after the deputies, Fulton said.
Jefferson County Deputy Chief Coroner Dan Pruett said Hohs was bitten once on the ankle. An autopsy has been performed, he added, though a cause of death has not been determined.
Pruett said paramedics reported that initially Hohs was conscious and lucid, but Hohs started to say he was having trouble breathing about 30 minutes after being bitten and soon went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics performed CPR on Hohs as they carried him along the trail to the waiting ambulance.
The trails in the park are all rated moderately difficult for hiking, according to the county's website.
Matt Robbins, community connections manager for Jefferson County Open Space, said vehicles are unable traverse the trails in the park.
Hohs was taken to a hospital in Lakewood, where he was pronounced dead.
Hohs was an avid outdoorsman and triathlete who had been living, working and training for triathlons in Colorado for several years, most recently in Steamboat Springs, which is about three hours northwest of where he was hiking Saturday.
He had been working with Heather Gollnick, a triathlon trainer in Steamboat Springs, for nearly three years as well.
"He was such a great coach and mentor," Gollnick said. "He was always smiling and just was always wanting to help anyone, especially beginners. He was just so great."
Snakebite deaths are rare in the United States, averaging about four to five a year for all types of venomous snakes, according to published reports. That's with about 8,000 venomous snakebites each year. Colorado public health officials said snakebite deaths are so unusual that they don't require hospitals to specifically track them, so there's no way of knowing the last time someone in that state died of a snake bite.
Pruett said in his nearly 30 years of work in coroners' offices around the state he could not recall any other snakebite death.
Dr. Emily Taylor, head of the Physiological Ecology of Reptiles Laboratory at California Polytechnic State University, said snakebites are usually deadly if they go untreated, the person is allergic to the venom or the fangs of the snake release the venom directly into the bloodstream.
Officials said Hohs did what you're supposed to do in these cases, which is wait for help to come to you. Walking with a snakebite could have sped the venom into his bloodstream, they said.
From Mundelein originally, Hohs was a soccer player in high school at Stevenson and graduated from the University of Michigan with an engineering degree. His personal blog at activeperformance.org detailed his struggles with a bipolar disorder diagnosis in college and how he turned to endurance sports to help control his manic depression.
"Endurance sports have provided me with the motivation to improve all aspects of my life, deeply reflect on who I am, and most importantly, learn that I can do what I once thought was impossible," he wrote. "My alternative brain chemistry is not a disorder and it is not an illness; it is a unique part of me that gives me strength and individuality in so many ways."
Funeral arrangements have not been set.