Woman found dead in bathroom stall 2 days after going to health club

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - A 78-year-old woman was found in the bathroom stall of a west suburban health club earlier this summer, two days after she checked in at the club.

About 7 p.m. July 14, a patron of Lifetime Fitness at 601 Burr Ridge Pkwy. noticed after her workout that the same woman appeared to have been in the same washroom stall for about two hours, according to Burr Ridge Deputy Police Chief Marc Loftus.

She notified an employee, who went into the washroom, got no response from the patron, and went underneath the stall. She found Patricia Austin unresponsive, Loftus said.

“I am devastated to lose my mother, and cannot understand how this happened,” Austin’s son, Terrence Austin, said in a statement from his attorneys, Anesi, Ozon, Rodin, Novak & Kohen, Ltd.

“Someone should have periodically checked the locker room. My mother sat in a bathroom stall, unattended, for two days. I don’t want this to happen to anyone, especially an elderly person, ever again,” Austin said.

Employees began performing CPR on Austin until paramedics arrived and pronounced her dead, Loftus said.

The last time Austin checked in at the health club was about 48 hours before she was found, about 7 p.m. July 12, Loftus said.

Austin, a resident of the Norwood Park neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side, was not reported missing.

An autopsy by the Cook County medical examiner’s office found she died of heart disease, and her death was ruled natural.

Attorneys representing Austin’s family filed a petition for discovery Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court, seeking the club’s maintenance records, surveillance videos, operations manual, inspection log of the ladies’ locker room and other materials.

“We are terribly saddened by this tragedy and continue to have our heartfelt thoughts and prayers with the family,” a statement from Lifetime spokesman Jason Thunstrom said.

“As a large facility with several thousand members visiting daily, it is not uncommon for bathroom stalls to be occupied as staff conducts their cleaning protocol,” Thunstrom said. “Out of respect for members, cleaning staff do not disturb individuals in occupied stalls.”

Thunstrom added that cleaning staff rotates throughout the day and their responsibilities vary. Also, during the club’s brief closure each day (1 a.m.-4 a.m.), it is not uncommon for members to use the bathroom before leaving, or for staff members to use the facilities, he said.

Police do not suspect foul play, Loftus said.

“As far as police are concerned, our investigation is complete.”