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EricI knew two people who perished during the Mt. St. Helens eruption. One can only speculate as to what happened to David Johnston- but he was probably impacted by several conditions during the eruption. First, these lateral pyroclastic flows are dense and move at relatively high speeds (up to 120 mph). One just has to look at all the snapped trees to appreciate the forces involved. Secondly, it is hot (hot enough in some pyroclastic flows to "weld" or melt the ash together). Thirdly, and this probably was the culprit in most fatalities, there is no oxygen in the volcanic gasses in these pyroclastic flows- people who would have otherwise survived the impact and heat suffocated.