On Memorial Day, Jeff Brenner’s pickup truck got stuck in the mud in a rural area east of Payette and he struck out on foot. His body was found eight days later in the middle of a field.
On Friday, the Payette County coroner explained what led to the 43-year-old construction worker’s death, and Brenner’s grief-stricken family prepared to hold a memorial service.
“His cause of death was dehydration due to exposure to high-desert heat for hours without water,” Coroner Keith Schuller told the Statesman. “It was a 90-degree day, and he was wearing a black shirt.”
“Once dehydration sets in, you lose a lot of your senses and ... become disoriented,” he said, adding that heat stroke likely played a role.
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Brenner’s truck got stuck in an area just off Dry Creek Road near Big Willow Road. At some point after leaving it, he struck out cross-country rather than following a road, Schuller said. A landowner found his body June 6 in an irrigated field about 3.5 miles from the truck “as the crow flies,” though the Payette man likely walked around twice that far in the heat.
He was last seen on Memorial Day after heading out to go turkey hunting with a friend, but he apparently didn’t have his shotgun with him when he walked into the field, said his sister-in-law, Mindy Brenner. He is believed to have died later that day or the next day, Schuller said.
Brenner’s disappearance and death rocked his family and friends, who searched for him in vain by ground and by air.
“Jeff was big-hearted and a big personality,” his family said in a draft of his soon-to-be-published obituary. “He always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.”
Brenner, his parents and two siblings moved from California to Weiser in 1976, when he was about 3 years old. In 1980 they moved to Payette, where Brenner played football throughout high school. He is survived by his father, Wayne Brenner; sister, Kara Johnson; brother, Gary Brenner; and two nephews.
He worked in various construction jobs, but family members say he was happiest when hunting and fishing. He loved teaching children about the joys of the outdoors.
“There are more than a few families where he is called Uncle Jeff,” Mindy Brenner said.
Services for Jeff Brenner
A memorial service for Jeff Brenner will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 24, at the Portia Club, 225 N. 9th St. in Payette.