ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) - There were three more heat related deaths confirmed in the City of St. Louis, Monday. St. Louis Health Director, Pam Walker, called for a national response in the hope of saving lives, beyond St. Louis.
It was heartbreaking to see central air conditioners in the back yards of two the homes involved; air conditioners that the victims wouldn`t turn 'on'.
Walker felt that it this heat wave was treated more like the national health epidemic, it'd make a difference, perhaps in the case of a heat victim like Ozell Garner, 71.
'[The heat] killed him, and I miss him,' lamented Garner`s longtime neighbor, Jeff Irving.
'We kind of told him like, `turn it on Ozell, it`s hot. It`s hot out here,`' Irving said of Garner`s central air unit. 'He didn`t want to turn it on.'
'Of the 3 cases we announced today, 2 of them had central air. They wouldn`t use it. One of them said it hurt his bones,' Walker said.
Garner was one the latest to die, last Tuesday, in his home in the 2800 block of James Cool Papa Bell in North St. Louis. Irving said Garrner was the maintenance man for the building for at least 17 years. .
'Ozell has central air...he didn`t use it. That`s the bottom line. He just didn`t use it,' Irving said.
Walker said Robert Moncure, 65, of the 5800 block of Terry in North St. Louis and Ronald Pendleton, 64, of the 4200 block of Chouteau in South St. Louis, were the other two victims confirmed by the medical examiner, Monday, to have died from the heat.
With the city`s heat death total at 17 in mid-July, she called on the director of Centers for Disease Control to start a new, nationwide, heat-death tracking system.
'It is an emergency ,' Walker said.
She said as far as she knew there had been about 60 heat deaths nationwide this summer; an alarming percentage here, but that national total was hardly reliable - cobbled together, in part -- from news reports.
She said a consistent definition of 'heat death' and more timely reporting would allow St. Louis and other cities to learn from each other and save lives; the response to St. Louis`s 153 heat deaths in 1980 was a case-in-point.
'Because we started counting them as heat related deaths and not natural causes, we put things in place that really save lives today...if I could come out and say look, it`s not just seniors in St. Louis, it`s 200 seniors nationwide that helps people go, `oh, well, this is real. This is very serious,`' Walker said.
She`d had just written the CDC with her request and yet to get a response. Fox 2 also contacted the CDC, with no response. Still Walker said she thought there was a real chance something would happen, maybe even this summer.