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Pleasanton Weekly

News - August 27, 2021

Kreycik likely died before search effort began

GPS data suggests ultrarunner 'had some type of medical event'

by By Julia Baum

Law enforcement authorities for both Pleasanton and Alameda County told the Weekly on Tuesday that Philip Kreycik, the ultramarathon runner whose disappearance sparked an extensive search-and-rescue campaign, likely "died before the search even got off the ground" after going missing on his run at Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park last month.

The final coroner's report from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office is still pending, but Lt. Erik Silacci with the Pleasanton Police Department said GPS data retrieved from Kreycik's smartwatch shows the Berkeley man strayed from his intended course on July 10 and potentially suffered from heat stroke and heat-related exhaustion. His body was found in a remote part of the parkland 24 days later.

"It just looks like he missed a turn where he should've gone. It appears based on what we believe, he had some sort of medical issue, most likely related to heat exhaustion or heat exposure," Silacci said.

A 37-year-old married father of two young children, Kreycik started his run around 10:49 a.m. July 10 at the Moller Ranch staging area, where he left his cellphone behind in his car, according to Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly.

Though initially off to a fast start and reaching a top speed of almost 12 mph, Kreycik's pace slowed significantly after about 45 minutes, then briefly resumed his pace before slowing to walking speed, authorities said citing the GPS data.

At this point, Kelly said that Kreycik's recorded movements on the smartwatch suggest he was potentially experiencing some type of heat-related distress; July 10 was one of the hottest days recorded in Pleasanton this summer. Silacci also confirmed that no water bottle or water source was found with or near Kreycik's body when it was discovered on Aug. 3.

"People who are affected by heat can have irrational behaviors in a heat environment," Kelly said. "They can hallucinate and get lost and become disoriented, and the data we have would show that that's consistent with what's on the sports watch."

The data also indicates that Kreycik likely died about 75 minutes after his wife Jen Yao reported him missing, around 2 p.m. July 10. "The search teams were not even out in full force, I don't know if anybody was deployed out at that point," Kelly said. "There were a lot of factors at play, but it looks like he died before the search even got off the ground."

Community members rallied around Kreycik's family during the following weeks, with local businesses and individuals lending aid to the search-and-rescue effort with their time, money and resources. Heat-detecting technology was used during nighttime aerial searches, while drones, canines and volunteers on horseback, bike and foot navigated the park terrain by daylight.

The official search was scaled back significantly after a couple weeks, but residents continued to look for Kreycik on their own time. Plans were also in the works to move the search party base from Foothill High School to the Alameda County Fairgrounds, but never materialized.

A volunteer searching on their own found a decomposing body on the afternoon of Aug. 3 underneath a tree in a wooded area about 200 yards off a game trail not intended for human access in the northwest end of the expansive park, police said. The family publicly confirmed two days later that the body was positively identified as Kreycik.

Preliminary autopsy results released earlier this month showed no signs of foul play nor trauma to the body including an animal attack, and "no major broken bones, fractures, skull injuries."

"The preliminary exam was unremarkable in regards to any of those significant types of events," Kelly said. "We don't expect that there will be much of a toxicology report. We'll never really know what happened, medically, but we can use this data to at least get some idea of his final movements and activity."

Kelly added, "It leaves you with a reasonable conclusion that he had some type of medical event, and I think that's helpful to the family and to the community to know that this was more along the lines of a medical event than any criminal or unforeseen type circumstance."

A pathologist will ultimately determine the final cause and manner of death, which Kelly said "it's very likely that could be determined (as) undetermined."

"At the end of the day, it's a very sad situation for the Pleasanton community, obviously for the Kreycik family, and for all of us that worked on this case," Kelly said. "We really poured our heart and soul into this. That being said, it's nice to get some answers for the family, for the community."

Silacci called the outcome "tragic" but hopes the investigation helps answer questions for Kreycik's family including his wife, two children, parents and sister.

"It's tragic; it was obviously a warm day that afternoon and we felt we had a really good amount of resources that we were able to put up on the hillside, and had high hopes of finding Philip," Silacci said. "Hopefully this will give the family some closure."

Editor's note: This story clarifies the reporting from police that Kreycik's body was found approximately 200 yards off the game trail.

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