Shared from the 8/24/2021 San Francisco Chronicle eEdition


Watch GPS data offers clues in jogger’s death

For more than 30 minutes on July 10, runner Philip Kreycik tore through Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park at a pace only achieved by seasoned athletes, at times dipping well below a 6-minute mile on a day that would hit 106 degrees.

But the Berkeley man began to slow considerably by the time he hit 8 kilometers, or about 5 miles, according to GPS data from Kreycik’s smartwatch. And what had been an intuitive path through well-worn trails had become erratic, with Kreycik zig-zagging in tight clusters around a remote game area before coming to a full stop.

It was the same location where search officials would find his remains nearly a month later.

The GPS data provide crucial clues into the conditions surrounding his death, after an initial autopsy found no signs of traumatic injuries. The report, obtained exclusively by The Chronicle, suggests that Kreycik may have experienced an altered mental state toward the end of his run, and that he likely died before search team boots ever hit the ground.

Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff ’s Office, said Kreycik’s movements could indicate a sort of delirium from heat exhaustion.

“Some experts in this field looked at the data and explained to us that it’s very possible that he had a heat stroke-related incident,” Kelly said. “This can cause people to hallucinate and act out in irrational ways before they become unconscious.”

Kreycik was first reported missing on July 10, a few hours after the 37-year-old father of two left for a run and never returned. Officials said that around 11 a.m. Kreycik told his wife he was setting out from the parking lot for a one-hour run.

This tracks with the data retrieved from Kreycik’s Suunto smartwatch, which has him beginning the run at 10:49 a.m. In chilling detail, the GPS data traces the path and splits of the entire 9.62 kilometer journey, showing that he ran for about 30 minutes, then dramatically slowed down, perhaps walking, and moved erratically — in zigzags and circles — before coming to a stop. The GPS stopped tracking movement 4.5 hours after he started his run.

In contrast to his earlier sidesplitting speeds, Kreycik’s final steps are traveled at a pace of about 1 to 2 kilometers per hour, or 0.62 mph to 1.24 mph. The data did not include a heart rate monitor, which could have indicated a precise time of death, but officials said it was likely almost immediately after Kreycik came to a stop.

Kreycik’s disappearance touched off an exhaustive search that would last for weeks, encompassing hundreds of personnel and volunteers, scent dogs, drones and aircraft. It was volunteer searcher who ultimately found Kreycik’s body on Aug. 3, under a tree about a quarter mile off the trail the runner had charted on a fitness app.

But officials said Kreycik didn’t bring his phone with him on the run, and didn’t follow the trail he mapped out for himself. Instead of completing an intended loop on the Sinbad Creek Trail southwest of his car, Kreycik doubled back and headed up north toward Dublin Canyon Road to an area northwest of where he parked.

Kreycik ultimately passed away in a remote, northern section area of the East Bay park, about 20 yards off a game trail and under a large oak tree. While officials said he was about a mile off course, at one point during the final leg of the route Kreycik was just a few hundred yards from residences off Dublin Canyon Road.

Kelly said at this point officials are waiting on toxicology results but are expecting them to be inconclusive. Absent evidence of a traumatic injury, the smart-watch data may hold the most comprehensive answers about what happened to Kreycik on July 10.

“He obviously had some type of emergency,” Kelly said.

Megan Cassidy is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @meganrcassidy

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