Pioneer Trek marred by heat-related death
Osage County recorded an apparent heat-related death recently when a 29-year-old Arkansas woman succumbed while re-enacting the Mormons’ 19th Century exodus to Utah.
Meaghan Blair, of Rogers, Ark., died on the first day of summer — Monday, June 20 — after collapsing on church-owned property north of town. Reports said she was an adult supervisor for the Osage Prairie Pioneer Trek, an event hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints.
A report released through the church said Blair was near the end of a seven-mile hike when she suffered a heat stroke. According to the release, the Treks are conducted at a number of sites around the U.S. and feature a variety of informative activities designed teach about the Mormon exodus. Participants dress in 1800’s pioneer attire, sing, dance and hike.
Several other Pioneer Trek participants also received treatment for heat-related ailments. Reportedly, three of youngsters were unconscious when the medical technicians arrived.
The victim is survived by a husband and two children. A fund has been set up for the Blair family through YouCaring.com (http://bit.ly/28PU8Fk).
A statement released by the family said Blair died at 1:15 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21.
“Prior to her death, she had been participating in a church youth activity near Pawhuska. Meaghan and her husband Michael were volunteering as youth leaders. The activity was a handcart trek, commemorating the sacrifices made by mid-1800s pioneers who walked across the plains to Utah. This specific activity was scheduled to last three days and had begun on the morning of Monday, June 20. Careful planning went into the event and specific plans were made to cope with the anticipated hot weather. She stopped regularly on the trail to consume water and salty foods and had trained outdoors in preparation for the activity. The group had walked 6.5 of the planned 7 miles when Meaghan expressed that she was not feeling well. She was immediately taken by ATV to the medical tent and was treated by the on-site doctor and registered nurses,” the statement said.
After her arrival in the medical tent, Meaghan began to have seizures and was flown to St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa, where she expired early the next morning. The medical examiner had not yet determined the cause of death.
The woman’s family expressed gratitude for “the outpouring of support and love in the wake of her passing.” A memorial service was conducted June 24 in Arkansas, with the funeral and interment held later in Utah.
An church spokeswoman said the Monday trek started early in the morning in an effort to beat the heat. It also included shade and swimming stops. According to the church website, the Osage Prairie treks are held in March, June and October. It says weather prevents scheduling them July and August. Each handcart used in the Osage Prairie Trek carried 10 gallons of drinking water for the reenactors, according to the Latter-day Saints website.
The Mormons’ original exodus was from Missouri and Illinois to Utah Territory, where the church established its headquarters in Salt Lake City.