A man exposed to bitterly cold temperatures froze to death in downtown Tulsa on Thursday.
The man, in his late 70s, was found in a sleeping bag at Archer Street and Denver Avenue about 2:40 p.m., Tulsa Police Lt. Jason Muse said. The adjacent block is home to some of the city's largest shelters for people experiencing homelessness.
The man's name was not released pending notification of his next of kin.
Muse said his cause of death is thought to be cold exposure but that the Medical Examiner’s Office will make a final determination upon completion of an autopsy.
Temperatures were below freezing Thursday.
“It’s a scary time of year, especially for people who are homeless,” Muse said. “When your body starts to lose its core temperature, it affects all kinds of functions that your body can normally do, … including being able to think clearly.”
Muse said the man likely died silently, not having anyone around him who was specially trained to recognize hypothermia.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that hypothermia, when a body loses heat faster than it’s produced, can make a person unable to think clearly or move well.
“This makes hypothermia especially dangerous, because a person may not know that it’s happening and won’t be able to do anything about it,” the agency says on its website.
Warning signs include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness.
“A person with severe hypothermia may be unconscious and may not seem to have a pulse or to be breathing,” the CDC states. “In this case, handle the person gently, and get emergency assistance immediately.”
The CDC advises bystanders to perform CPR on a person experiencing hypothermia, even if they appear dead, while warming their core until professional medical aid is available. In some cases, people experiencing severe hypothermia have been resuscitated.