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Coroners report for Monticello woman believed to have died from water toxicity released

Water toxicity happens when you drink too much water too fast.
water toxicity
Posted at 11:18 PM, Aug 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-29 12:40:35-04

MONTICELLO — The Tippecanoe County coroner has released the official cause of death for the 35-year-old woman who was believed to have died from water toxicity.

Ashley Summers had been out on Lake Freeman with her husband and two daughters over the Fourth of July weekend, just hours before the tragedy occurred.

"She loved being on the water. She loved being on the lake," Devon Miller, Ashley's brother, told WRTV.

According to the coroner, Summers' official cause of death was Cerebral edema and herniation with anoxic brain injury due to electrolyte imbalance.

Miller says they were were there Saturday through Tuesday. It was Tuesday evening when he got a call that something wasn't right.

"My sister, Holly, called me, and she was just an absolute wreck. She was like 'Ashley is in the hospital. She has brain swelling, they don’t know what’s causing it, they don’t know what they can do to get it to go down, and it’s not looking good,'" Miller said.

Earlier that day, Summers' family says she was feeling dehydrated and like she couldn't drink enough water. She was lightheaded and had a headache.

"Someone said she drank four bottles of water in 20 minutes. I mean, an average water bottle is like 16 ounces, so that was 64 ounces that she drank in a span of 20 minutes. That’s half a gallon. That’s what you’re supposed to drink in a whole day," Miller said.

Ashley made it home, but passed out in her garage. She was taken to IU Health Arnett Hospital, but never regained consciousness.

Doctors told the family she died from water toxicity.

"It was a shock to all of us. When they first started talking about water toxicity. It was like this is a thing?" said Miller.

Water toxicity occurs when someone drinks too much water really quickly.

"There are certain things that can make someone more at risk for it, but the overall thing that happens is that you have too much water and not enough sodium in your body," said Dr. Blake Froberg, a toxicologist with IU Health.

Dr. Froberg says it's a rare occurrence, but during the summer months or if you're someone that works outside or exercises a lot, it's important to have a hydration plan.

"Making sure that you’re drinking things that have electrolytes and sodium and some potassium," said Dr. Froberg.

Dr. Froberg says some of the symptoms you'll experience are feeling generally unwell, having muscle cramps and soreness, nausea and headaches.

Summers was an organ donor and was able to donate her heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and some of her long bone tissue. She helped save five people's lives.