Pennsylvania Woman an Apparent Suicide by Inhaling Helium

Tuesday, 11 Dec 2012 12:33 PM

By Megan Anderle

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A 44-year-old Pennsylvania woman reported missing several days ago by her boyfriend was found dead in a state park, an apparent suicide by inhaling helium gas.

The body of Teresa Mastracola, of Millbourne, Pa., was found on Saturday deep in Ridley Creek State Park, the Daily Mail reported. She went missing almost a week ago.

Police said they do not suspect foul play, but are still investigating exactly how she carried out the suicide. Authorities officially ruled the death the result of helium inhalation and chemical asphyxia.

Mastracola was an avid hiker who frequented the park and ventured out for days at a time, police said, which is why they were reluctant to rule her disappearance as suspicious at first. Police haven’t found her car yet.

Mastracola’s ex-boyfriend, who she lived with, reported her missing to authorities on Dec. 2 when she didn’t come home. Her co-workers at Delaware County Memorial Hospital were also concerned when she didn’t show up for work for several days.

Recreational use of helium is not uncommon. The Washington Times reports that the number of people who require medical attention for inhaling helium remains low in the United States, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, so low that helium is grouped with other simple asphyxiates, which are gases that displace oxygen.

However, according to a British study, helium-related deaths have gone up in recent years in England and Wales. In 2010, there were two reported deaths. In 2011, that number spiked to 42. Between 1993 and 2007 only 18 people were recorded as having died from the gas in those countries.

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