Modesto High graduate drowned, coroner reports

Mild heart and lung abnormalities might have led to the drowning of Ryan Hunter Dickerson, a Modesto High School graduate who died in July while working at a Texas youth camp, according to a medical examiner.

Dickerson, 18, was an Eagle Scout who swam and played water polo at Modesto High and was working as a counselor and lifeguard at the camp. He was planning to enter Washington University in St. Louis.

Dickerson last was seen July 29 waiting for kids near a slide at the shore of Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, said Steve Baskin, director at Camp Champions, about 50 miles northwest of Austin.

About two hours later, Dickerson was found in the lake about three feet from shore, Baskin said.

R.E. Kohlmeier, Travis County deputy medical examiner, said Dickerson was found unresponsive, floating about a foot below the lake's surface. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital and pronounced dead in the emergency room.

According to an autopsy report, Dickerson had a clinical history of asthma, although there was no evidence of asthma or an acute allergic reaction that might have led to his death. He had mild dehydration but no skull fractures, internal organ injuries or other significant trauma at the time of his death, the report says.

A toxicology report found no controlled substances in his body.

Kohlmeier said Dickerson died as the result of drowning. He also said the abnormalities in Dickerson's heart and lungs suggest a possible underlying problem that may have led to a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.

Dickerson was the younger son of Ron and Lynn Dickerson. Lynn Dickerson is a vice president of operations for The McClatchy Co. and was publisher of The Modesto Bee from 2000 to 2006.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.