Houston man working outside died from overheating, according to medical examiner

A 46-year-old man died from hyperthermia on June 16 after collapsing at an outdoor construction job in Fort Bend County. It was the first heat-related death in the Houston area this year.


Heat Wave
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
A man digs fence post holes Tuesday, June 27, 2023, in Houston.

The heat wave that has gripped the Houston region this month has turned deadly.

Houston resident Felipe Pascual, 46, died from hyperthermia on June 16 – around the time the region began seeing daily high temperatures near or above 100 degrees – according to chief investigator John Florence of the Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office. Florence said Pascual was working an outdoor construction job in Fort Bend County when he collapsed and was taken to Memorial Hermann Pearland Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Hyperthermia is a condition in which the body becomes dangerously overheated and its heat-regulating mechanisms are not functioning properly, typically in response to prolonged hot and humid weather.

"That's the first one we've seen," Florence said Friday.

There have been 13 other heat-related deaths in Texas this month, including 11 in Webb County, where Laredo is the county seat, according to the Associated Press. Much of the state has been coping with hot weather since mid-June.

Meanwhile, a new Texas law is set to take effect Sept. 1 that will override local ordinances in cities such as Austin, Dallas and Houston that mandate water breaks or air conditioning for outdoor workers.

Lara Anton, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the agency does yet have death data for June, citing a typical lag in the filing of death certificates. But in terms of the numbers of heat-related visits to emergency rooms and urgent care facilities, Anton said statewide numbers this year are "much higher" than they were in 2022.

"There's definitely been a lot more ER visits for heat-related illnesses this year," said Anton, who did not immediately provide exact figures. "It's the highest number we've seen since we started collecting that data (six years ago)."

An ER nurse at Houston's Ben Taub Hospital, a trauma center operated by the Harris Health System, told Houston Public Media earlier this week that it had seen an uptick in patients with heat exhaustion. The Houston SPCA, meanwhile, said it responded to nearly three times as many calls about heat-distressed animals between June 1-20 as it did during the same time period last year.

A Houston K-9 named Aron died from heat exhaustion earlier this month after being left in a patrol vehicle, according to the Houston Police Department.

The sustained hot weather also has had an impact on roads in the Houston area. A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation said there have been 10 instances during the last two weeks in which roadways have become damaged by the heat, in some cases buckling entirely.

Adam Zuvanich

Adam Zuvanich

Digital Content Producer

Adam Zuvanich writes locally relevant digital news stories for Houston Public Media. He grew up in the Houston area and earned a journalism degree from the University of Texas before working as a sportswriter in Austin, Lubbock, Odessa, St. Louis and San Antonio. Zuvanich returned home to Houston and made...

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