Hyperthermia can kill even after the victim is removed from the conditions that caused it is the lesson from a case currently going through the US federal court. Whatever the right and wrongs of the case itself, brought by the widow of a Latvian engineer it is a reminder of a very real danger.
Hyperthermia occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature at a normal level of 37.5–38.3 °Celcius. Symptoms can include dry, red skin, nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness and fainting. Unless treated quickly the result can be coma and death.
Vigorous work in conditions of high heat and humidity will promote hyperthermia. Prevention includes frequent rest breaks, preferably in an air conditioned atmosphere, and taking plenty of fluids.
In the case before the US courts lawyers for Larisa Gerasimenko of Rīga last year filed suit in US federal court arguing that the defendants are liable for breach of contract, wrongful death, negligence and gross negligence. Her husband, 51-year-old Vasilijs Gerasimenko, died Aug. 27, 2008, from hyperthermia caused by working in the hot engine room of the MV Indra, according to the civil complaint.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit, filed in September 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, are the Latvian Shipping Co. (Latvijas Kuģniecība), LSC Shipmanagement Ltd., and the Cape Wind Trading Co., all with the same office address.
Indra arrived at Corpus Christi on 25 August, 2008, and the crew began work on repairing the ship’s engine. Gerasimenko, an engineer, was required to work in the engine room for nearly a day and a half with little rest, according to complaint. The temperature in the engine room was measured to be as high as 70 degrees Celsius.
On the morning of 27 August 27, less than two hours after finishing work, Gerasimenko told crewmembers he was not feeling well. An ambulance took him to a hospital, but 45 minutes later he was pronounced dead. An autopsy determined his death was caused by hyperthermia from working in the hot engine room, according to the complaint.