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Snowboarder Dies

A teen-ager who survived six days after he became lost in a blizzard while snowboarding in the rugged San Gabriel Mountains died Friday night at Loma Linda University Medical Center, seven days after rescuers found him.

No information on the cause of death for Jeff Thornton, 14, of Brawley, was available. He had developed difficulty breathing in the 24 hours prior to his death and his condition deteriorated throughout Friday. Then he suffered cardiac arrest and he could not be revived, said San Bernardino County Coroner's Deputy Linda Myers.

The boy's body will be brought to the coroner's office for an autopsy, said another coroner's deputy, Andrew Avery.

The hospital would not confirm the coroner's office report early today, and declined to give any information at the request of the boy's family.

Earlier, the hospital would not make public any details of the youth's injuries or treatment also as a result of a family request.

The teen-ager disappeared Feb. 7 from the New Mountain High ski resort near Wrightwood, about 50 miles northeast of Los Angeles, while snowboarding with his uncle. Rescuers found him Feb. 13 and he was hospitalized for treatment of broken bones, an eye injury and frostbite on his legs, arms and hands at Foothill Presbyterian Medical Center in Glendora before being transferred to Loma Linda.

The youth was moved out of an intensive care unit to a room at the Loma Linda hospital on Monday.

Throughout his treatment at the two hospitals, the parents refused interview requests.

On Thursday the youth had been visited by two players from his favorite hockey team, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Defenseman Dan Trebil and Brent Severyn had a brief chat with the youth, and Trebil said the boy told them: "My toes I can't feel those."

During his six days in near- and below-freezing weather, which included blizzard conditions at the time he disappeared, the youth had lost a boot, his gloves and his snowboard. He appeared dazed and confused, and was surprised to learn he had been lost for longer than two days, his rescuers said.

The boy survived because he could walk to a nearby creek for water, said veterans of searches in the mountain wilderness of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Randy Katai, 47, and Art Fortini, 36, of the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team, spotted Thornton from a distance of about 50 yards after finding footprints in the snow at the 6,500-foot-level and following their direction below the snow line.

"I couldn't believe it was him," said Katai, who, like Fortini, has been with the search team for about seven years.

"Other people pulled out but they stuck with it throughout the week and came up with him," said Deputy Mark Bailey of the search and rescue team.

After the boy was reported missing, rescue units had searched over the following weekend, but were forced to curtail their efforts because of heay snowfall. A total of 39 inches of snow fell in the area over a seven-day period before and during the search.

"He looks beat up like (Mike) Tyson punched him," Marc Shapiro, the boy's uncle who had been with him on the snowboarding trip, said shortly after the rescue.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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