- Coroners Report Summary
- Public affairs officer Elizabeth Jones requested that
a synopsis of Anthony Phelps' medical examination be
posted, to facilitate the participation of the online
- When Jones contacted Memorial Hospital, first-year
resident James Denton offered to provide the requested
information as follows.
- Report Summary
- When he was found, Anthony Phelps was in a fairly
advanced state of rigor mortis, thereby leading
investigators to place the time of death at 14-16 hours
before he was examined. The examiner states the time of
death as being anywhere from 10:00 p.m. to midnight on
- When the van containing Phelps crashed, Phelps
sustained two serious injuries. First, Phelps hit his
head, causing bruising of both the scalp and the brain.
There was some bleeding beneath the skull, and in
response, a small blood clot had formed. The bleeding and
associated clot exerted pressure on the brain, causing
- Second, and more significantly, Phelps' aorta
sustained a small tear at the juncture of one of the main
arteries - an injury caused by the rapid impact
experienced during the accident. Phelps' body would have
responded to the rupture by attempting to block the hole
- once again, the blood-clotting mechanism at work.
However, as the clot built up and repaired the tear, the
resulting lump would have restricted the flow of blood
through this vital artery. To relieve the resulting
stress on the heart, dissolving agents in Phelps' blood
would have acted to weaken the clot. This process can
occur over several days, and in Phelps' case it took
nearly a week for the clot to grow large and then to be
weakened enough to cause a second rupture. With the
second rupture, internal bleeding continued unchecked,
resulting in Phelps' death. 2.5 liters of blood were
found in the chest cavity.
- Additional notes
- The head injury in and of itself was not fatal,
although Phelps would have been in severe pain. As to the
ruptured aorta, Phelps may have felt relatively normal -
attributing any pain in the torso to the bruises on his
chest - until the bleeding began a second time, during
which Phelps would have experienced severe discomfort and
weakness, ultimately losing consciousness before dying.
- Immediate medical attention could have saved Phelps,
but because he was probably not aware of the more serious
aortic damage, he probably decided that the head injury
was not worth the risk of re-arrest.