Elderly Hikers Died in Calif. Wilderness Before Search Began

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (AP) - Authorities say two elderly hikers had died in the Sierra Nevada backcountry even before they were reported missing.

El Dorado County Sheriff's Lt. Les Lovell says autopsies performed Tuesday revealed that 70-year-old Thomas Hylton died of a heart of attack on June 2.

It was the first day that he and 78-year-old Jerome Smith set out for a four-day backpacking trip in Desolation Wilderness just west of Lake Tahoe.

Smith left for help after his friend collapsed but fell down a hillside on way his back to the highway. The sheriff's office says he died from his injuries and exposure to the chilly overnight temperature.

The men's families reported them missing Thursday when they failed to return home to Lincoln, a bedroom community north of Sacramento.

A search team found Hylton's body Friday at a campsite. They found Smith's a day later near the shore of Eagle Lake, located about a mile from the campsite and accessible only by foot.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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