The July disappearance of Berkeley runner Philip Kreycik mystified searchers for over three weeks before his body was ultimately found about a mile off the Pleasanton running trail he intended to follow. Now, investigators with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office have revealed what they've found in the GPS data from Kreycik's smart watch, which yields some clues about what may have befallen him.
As the Chronicle reports, the watch data shows that Kreycik ran five miles very quickly on July 10, on a trail in Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park. He began the run at 10:49 a.m., just as he told his wife — but it's likely that he was unprepared for the effects of temperatures that reached 106 degrees in Pleasanton that day. The watch was not monitoring Kreycik's heart rate, so no exact time of death is available. But the circuitous route he took after departing the trail indicates that he may have succumbed to heat stroke and experienced some delirium before his ultimate death.
"Some experts in this field looked at the data and explained to us that it’s very possible that he had a heat stroke-related incident,” says sheriff's spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly, speaking to the Chronicle. “This can cause people to hallucinate and act out in irrational ways before they become unconscious.”
The data, per the Chronicle, indicates that the watch stopped tracking Kreycik's movements after four and a half hours, though it's not clear whether he was actually moving for that long. According to sheriff's report, Kreycik's pace slowed to as low as 0.6 miles per hour as he apparently wandered in odd directions, ultimately coming to rest under an oak tree about 20 yards off of a game trail, a mile from the running trail he had been on.
The GPS data also shows that at some point in his wandering, Kreycik was only a few hundred yards away from some homes on Dublin Canyon Road.
A running friend of Kreycik's, Chris Thoburn, surmised early on in the search that heat stroke, and Kreycik's inexperience with running in high heat, were likely to blame for his demise. And he further explained that people experiencing heat-related delirium will often wander in circles for hours and not be conscious that they need medical attention.
Kreycik was an experienced distance runner, and ran Bay Area trails very frequently if not daily. But as Thoburn explained, he typically stuck to the "Bay side of the ridge," and was therefore not heat-adapted, as some runners can be.
Results of a toxicology report on Kreycik are still pending, but they are expected to be inconclusive. An earlier preliminary autopsy concluded that Kreycik had not suffered any external trauma.