Two people died Thursday, Oct. 8, following a sweat lodge ceremony at Angel Valley Retreat Center located down Forest Road 525B between Sedona and Page Springs.
Verde Valley Fire District personnel were called to the scene at 5:19 p.m. Crews found several victims who had been involved in sweat lodge ceremony. Approximately 48 people participated in the ceremony that lasted over two hours, according to VVFD reports.
Initially, four patients were flown to Flagstaff Medical Center and six more were taken to Verde Valley Medical Center, in Cottonwood. In total, 21 people were evacuated to area medical centers, the reports stated.
A middle aged man and woman who were taken to VVMC were pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Their names have not yet been released pending notification of next of kin, the reports stated.
At least one victim remains in critical condition.
Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at 10:27 p.m. and began conducting a full investigation. Deputies were still on the scene Friday, Oct. 9.
YCSO Detectives from the Criminal Investigations Section will determine the exact causes of death and other injuries. Detectives are also obtaining a search warrant for other buildings on the site.
The victims had been inside a “sweatbox” structure on the north side of the property. The sweat lodge was dome shaped and covered in tarps and blankets. Hot rocks and water are used to create a steam inside the closed structure, according to YCSO.
Owners of the retreat center told VVFD personnel that the center was rented out and being used by an outside agent, according to reports.
The retreat center is located south of Hwy. 89A along Oak Creek, west of Sedona and east of Page Springs.
Christopher Fox Graham