Woman Dies at Suburban Health Club, Body Not Found for 2 Days

A woman who died at a suburban health club in July was not discovered for nearly two days, officials said.

Patricia Austin’s body was found in a bathroom stall just before 8 p.m. on July 14 at a Burr Ridge Lifetime Fitness. Police said the 78-year-old’s membership card showed she entered the club July 12, but her car remained in the parking lot and surveillance video never showed her leaving the building.

A woman working out at the club used the bathroom on July 14 and noticed feet under one of the stalls. When she returned after her workout, she saw the same feet and alerted staff, police said.

An employee then discovered Austin’s body, called for help and administered CPR until police and paramedics arrived.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said an autopsy showed Austin died of natural causes, specifically athersclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

Lifetime Fitness said it conducted its own investigation into Austin’s death but could not verify how long she had been in the stall before her body was found, saying there have been mixed reports about when the stall was cleaned.

Jason Thunstrom, a spokesman for the Minnesota-based fitness center chain said in a nearly 24-hour club it can be common for a stall to be occupied while staff is cleaning.

He noted that while Burr Ridge is closed for three hours each day, "it is not uncommon for members to be finishing their workouts and showering or using restrooms a bit beyond close." He added that employees could use the same facilities during the overnight hours. 

“The fact that this ended in tragedy, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family,” Thunstrom said.

Police said an investigation into the case has been closed. 

Attorneys for Austin’s family held a press conference Wednesday to "provide a statement and answer questions regarding the investigation" into her death.

"The difficulty that we’re having is we have so many unanswered questions right now," her son son Terrence Austin said. "We don’t know how something like this could happen. It’s frustrating, it’s stressful. We just don’t have the answers we need."

"You make sure the club is empty before you close the club and when you think you’ve assured that it’s empty and you see a car parked right in the handicapped stall, how do you not say to yourself, 'Wait we missed somebody, somebody’s still inside the club'? This happened two times," said the family's attorney, Mark Novak.

The family filed a petition of discovery in the case, searching for answers and hoping to collect all surveillance video to see Austin’s condition as she entered the club.

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