A 48-year-old Grass Valley homeless camp resident was found dead in his shelter Thursday morning - about two months after his brother died in the same camp in similar conditions.
Ricky Thomas, a Grass Valley native, was found by Hospitality House outreach case manager Jeff Dupra, who was visiting the camp between East Bennett Road and Railroad Avenue to check on Thomas' well-being, said Executive Director Cindy Maple.
Temperatures dipped below freezing both Wednesday and Thursday mornings as a cold front moved into the Grass Valley area, according to National Weather Service in Sacramento.
Thomas had found his older brother, Tim, dead in his own shelter on Nov. 21, 2011 in the same camp. The elder brother's death was officially due to a "severe" cardiac arrest, but hypothermia was likely a factor in the brothers' deaths, said Sgt. Paul Schmidt, chief deputy coroner with the Nevada County Sheriff's Office.
Alcohol also was believed to be a factor.
Although an official autopsy report was not yet complete, Ricky Thomas' death was "the exact same circumstance" as his brother, Schmidt said.
"(Ricky) loved his brother. They were buddies. They were brothers. I think he felt responsible like he should have done something to prevent (Tim's death)," Maple said. "I think his heart broke after that."
Tim Thomas told The Union in a December 2010 interview that he and his brother had lived in the camp since September 2009.
Tim Thomas' legs were amputated below the knee after taking up residence in the camp. He was wheelchair-bound until his death at age 49.
"We've been working with Tim and Rick for a long time in our outreach case management," Maple said. "Part of what we do with case management is try to get them connected to services and the help they need."
Hospitality House had taken the Thomas brothers to medical appointments, and even brought doctors to their camp, Maple said.
Dupra said both brothers were found in microshelters, wooden structures large enough to hold one person lying down or sitting, with a small door to one side and a window on the other, and built similar to wheelbarrows so they can be carted when necessary.
"I feel so disoriented by this. This is what is real," Maple said. "I can deal with budgets and paperwork, but in the end we're here to help these people and it's not enough."
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