September 18, 2014
An 80-year-old Blue Island man who had dementia died of hypothermia Monday night after leaving his house, authorities said.
Elias Contreras died at MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island at 9:15 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. It said an autopsy Tuesday found that diabetes and heart disease also were factors in Contreras’ death.
Contreras’ cousin, the Rev. Peter Contreras, of Bethel Pentecostal Church in Blue Island, said Elias Contreras lived with his granddaughter, who found him in the front yard. It was unclear how long he had been outside before he was found.
The National Weather Service said it was 10 below zero about 8 p.m. Monday at Midway Airport.
“Every now and then he would go out of the house to take a walk, and he didn’t realize how cold it was,” Rev. Contreras said. “Everybody was shocked at what happened.”
He said Contreras lived in Blue Island for nearly his entire life and was the oldest of six brothers and two sisters. He served in the Army as a medic, later worked for a railroad company and had a son and daughter, he said, adding that his wife died previously.
Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas said Contreras was a neighbor and was “well-known in the community.”
Rev. Contreras said his cousin was a member of Bethel Pentecostal Church, and he had seen him last on Christmas during a church banquet.
“He will be missed,” Contreras said. “He was faithful to his community and to his church and to his people.”
Contreras’ death was the second in the south suburbs and the eighth in Cook County this winter that was caused at least partly by cold weather, authorities said. His death was the first since the record-breaking cold arrived Sunday night.