Heat-related deaths on the rise in the Valley, prompts warning from health experts

Posted at 6:52 PM, Jul 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-07 21:59:36-04

The death toll is rising as Phoenix hits record-breaking temperatures again on Friday.

More than 60 deaths in Maricopa County so far this year are being investigated as heat-related, and if the trend continues, we could top last year's record 130 deaths.

Public health experts say senior citizens are the most vulnerable.

In June, Oralia Parra, 79, died after wandering outside on a blistering afternoon. The Alzheimer's patient had walked away from her Peoria nursing home.

Public safety officials warn you don't have to be outside to succumb to this record-breaking heat. Four other recent deaths were east Valley seniors with air conditioning problems at home.

"That population can't really handle the heat as well as the younger folks, so we want to make sure we pay attention to them," Phoenix Fire Capt. Reda Bigler said.

In one Fountain Hills case, a neighbor realized Lorraine Minneci, a 90-year old woman living next door, failed to take in her garbage cans. The neighbor told ABC15 she called 911 worried about the woman, but it was too late to save her.

"Many times we go on what we call a 'check welfare,' and that's somebody calling in saying, 'I'm worried about this person,'" Bigler said.

As long as temperatures are peaking, it may be better to be a nosy neighbor.