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Autopsy reports for the seven college students killed in the Ocean Isle Beach are complete.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill completed the final autopsy late last month. Justin Michael Anderson, 19, died of “carbon monoxide poisoning secondary to smoke inhalation,” his autopsy report states.
Dr. Steven D. Dubner and Dr. John D. Butts, chief medical examiner, noted Anderson had an ethanol concentration of 290 mg/dl, or a blood alcohol concentration of .29.
“Acute alcohol use was a contributing condition,” the report states.
Eighteen-year-old Cassidy Fae Pendley’s autopsy report shows her cause of death as carbon monoxide poisoning; however, Dr. Thomas B. Clark III noted a blood alcohol concentration of .18.
“Alcohol intoxication is a significant contributing condition,” the report states.
The other five victims died of carbon monoxide poison ing and smoke inhalation, although none of the additional reports listed alcohol as a contributing factor.
Nineteen-year-old Allison Christine Walden was found with a .20 BAC. Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft also noted soot in her airways.
Lauren Emily Yelton, 19, had a .18 BAC and soot in her body.
William Robert Rhea, 18, died with a .21 BAC, and soot residues in his air passages. Nineteen-year-old Travis Lane Cale’s BAC was .18, and was also found with soot in his air passages.
Only one victim was not found with alcohol in her system. Lauren Astrid Kristiana Mahon was found with soot in her respiratory tract.
While all of the victims were inside a private residence at the time of their deaths, Butts said North Carolina chose .08 as the BAC legal limit for a reason.
“It’s been shown individuals’ judgment and coordination are affected [at this level],” he said during a November interview. “If they were stopped driving a car, I’m sure authorities would have felt they were impaired.”
District Attorney Rex Gore said last month even though underage drinking occurred, no charges would be filed, as his investigation shows the purchaser of the alcohol was one of the victims.
“The thing that still sticks out in my mind is, yes, it’s unfortunate that there was any alcohol involved,” he said. “It’s illegal for young people [younger than 21] to drink in North Carolina under any circumstances, but this is about fire. This is the tragedy of those people losing their lives, and I hope we never lose sight of that.”
Of the seven that died during the Oct. 28 beach house fire, six attended the University of South Carolina, while one attended Clemson University. Six additional USC students in the house at the time of the fire managed to escape. Authorities say the house was equipped with smoke alarms, and survivors have reported hearing them activate.