The “Spiritual Warrior” retreat was a five-day program about which Ray’s website states “There is no sacrifice—only greater and more magnificent results, wealth, adventure and fulfillment.” The program involved 36 hours of fasting which ended with a breakfast buffet Thursday morning and culminated in the two-hour sweat lodge ceremony at 3 p.m. (A sweat lodge is an enclosed space made to be sauna-like by digging a pit in the center for hot rocks, which water is then poured over. Traditionally the frame was built of willow branches which were then covered with blankets and animal hides. Sweat lodges were traditionally used by Native Americans to cleanse the body and spirit. Apparently, the tradition has also been kept alive and is used rather frequently by the “New Age” community.)
Due to the nature of a sweat lodge, it seems to be common knowledge that there is a certain degree of danger involved in the process. Many people have commented about the number of people that were allowed in this sweat lodge. The consensus seems to be that no more than 12 people are usually involved. The main reason is so that the host can monitor each and every individual’s spiritual and physical process.
At some point during or after this particular ceremony, Kirby Brown and James Shore collapsed into unconsciousness. Someone called 911. Brown and Shore, along with 19 others, were taken to the hospital. Kirby Brown and James Shore were later pronounced dead. Four of the others are still in the hospital, one in critical condition.
I have read many comments from people who are familiar with sweat lodges. In this day and age of responsibility and liability, I truly wonder how Mr. Ray could possibly have been aware of the condition of all 64 people in that sweat lodge? I don’t see how he could unless he had many assistants helping to monitor everyone----I haven’t heard any reports that he did. We do not know exactly how many people were helping Ray to monitor the participants, but regardless, they apparently failed, considering 21 people needed medical assistance.
The Sheriff’s Department is investigating and taking care to determine whether criminal negligence played a role in the deaths. Regardless of whether criminal charges are brought, civil liability certainly seems plausible here. The proprietors of this event have legal responsibilities, called “duties”, to know what they are doing, to know the dangers of what they are doing, to adequately communicate these dangers to their guest and to properly monitor, as needed, for these dangers throughout each careful stage. Obviously, something went very wrong here. We will be watching with great interest the outcome of this one.
**If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email Chris Zachar directly at Czachar@zacharlaw.com, or visit our website at www.ZacharLawFirm.com .