Fatal Positional Asphyxia
Associated With
Rollover Crashes

Conroy C, Eastman AB, Stanley C, Vilke GM, Vaughan T, Hoyt DB, Pacyna S.
Fatal positional asphyxia associated with rollover crashes.
Am J Forensic Med Pathol; December 2007, 28(4):330-332.

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Fatal Positional Asphyxia Associated With Rollover Crashes.

Conroy, Carol MPH, PhD; Eastman, A Brent MD, FACS; Stanley, Christina MD;
Vilke, Gary M. MD, FACEP, FAAEM; Vaughan, Teresa RN, MFS; Hoyt, David B. MD,
FACS; Pacyna, Sharon RN, BSN, MPH.


Motor vehicle rollover crashes result in complex occupant kinematics with the potential for severe injury. Five cases of fatal asphyxia in occupants suspended from their safety belt upside down after a rollover crash are presented. These fatalities accounted for 13.5% of all motor vehicle related asphyxia deaths in San Diego County over a 10-year period. This study supports previous research noting that incapacitation due to other injuries, alcohol, or obesity may be associated with fatal positional asphyxia due to inversion during rollovers. Safety belts are proven to prevent serious injury in motor vehicle crashes and should always be worn. However, redesign of the buckle could be considered to permit easier release by an occupant. We also suggest that pre-existing heart disease may contribute to the possibility of a fatal asphyxia outcome. Although this is a rare cause of motor vehicle related death, our results suggest that these are potentially preventable deaths.

American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology. 28(4):330-332, December 2007.

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