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Sweat Lodge Guru Cancels 2009 Events After Deaths

Investigators look over a "sweat lodge" on the grounds of Angel Valley Retreat Center, near Sedona, Ariz. Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic/AP Photo) hide caption

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Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic/AP Photo)

Investigators look over a "sweat lodge" on the grounds of Angel Valley Retreat Center, near Sedona, Ariz.

Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic/AP Photo)

The self-help guru who was ran the sweat-lodge purification session that resulted in the deaths of three people and illnesses in 18 in Sedona, Ariz earlier this month is canceling all of his events for the rest of the year.

James Arthur Ray has a statement on his website explaining his decision. It reads in part:

The lives of the families impacted by the Sedona tragedy have been changed forever. These families deserve to have the questions raised by the tragedy answered as quickly and authoritatively as possible. That is the goal I'm dedicated to achieving.

In the days following the terrible accident, I struggled to respond in the right way. This is the most emotionally wrenching situation I've ever faced, and it's now clear I must dedicate all of my physical and emotional energies to helping bring some sort of closure to this matter. That means helping the authorities and the families get to the bottom of what happened.

I'm committed to devoting all of my time, for as long as it takes, to achieve this goal. For that reason, I'm postponing all the events I had planned for the remainder of 2009. These events will be rescheduled as soon as possible in 2010—once the essential work that must be done on the Sedona tragedy has been completed.

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What Ray didn't say in his statement is that law-enforcement officials are investigating the deaths as possible homicides and that he could be facing criminal charges.

The deaths occurred at the Angel Valley Retreat Center in a sweat lodge partly covered in plastic sheeting, unlike the natural materials native Americans used in their traditional sweat lodges.

Nearly 60 people, some of whom paid more than $9,000 for the experience, were in the dubiously constructed sweat lodge for a two hour purification ceremony with Ray when many of them began feeling ill with some passing out. A sweat lodge is similar to a sauna where water is poured on hot rocks to create very humid heat.

Law enforcement officials have said they believe a relative lack of oxygen inside the structure led to the problems.