Coroner: Autopsy shows missing man found in Golden canal died of hypothermia

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jul 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-09 20:53:00-04

GOLDEN, Colo. — The body of an elderly man found in a Golden canal last May died from probable hypothermia, according to forensic pathologist John Carver. 

An autopsy report released Monday indicates a disoriented 87-year-old James Mitchell, after crashing his truck into a railcar the night of December 14, 2017, walked away from the crash scene and likely sought shelter in the nearby and then dry canal. 

With temperatures dipping to around or below freezing the night he disappeared, rail workers came upon his truck the next morning and found blood inside the cab of the abandoned pickup truck, but Mitchell was nowhere to be seen.

Authorities searched for several miles in every direction from the crash site, including searches with drones and bloodhounds. But they failed to uncover any sign of the missing man during months of searching. However, on May 7, a Golden City crew member discovered the body as he was removing debris from beneath a bridge along the canal.

In the autopsy report, Carver explains that based upon scene findings, Mitchell likely became disoriented while driving home in his truck, causing him to crash into the railcar.  The crash caused the man to hit his forehead on the steering wheel or dash, explaining the blood at the scene. 

After the crash, Mitchell, wearing light clothing, walked away from the truck and likely sought shelter in the canal, which passes below a large portion of Coors Brewing Company production facilities. His body was discovered after flow was re-established several months after he disappeared, Carver concludes.

Dementia was listed as a significant contributing factor to his death.