Local News

Autopsy: Alcohol Contributed to Beach-House Fire Death

Posted February 4, 2008 1:28 p.m. EST
Updated February 4, 2008 8:18 p.m. EST

— A South Carolina college student had alcohol in his blood when he died during a fire at an Ocean Isle beach house in October, according to an autopsy released Monday.

The autopsy was the last on the seven fire victims to be released by the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill.

The autopsy showed Justin Michael Anderson, 19, died of smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Anderson's blood alcohol concentration was 0.29, and that was "a contributing condition" to his death, according to the autopsy report.

Earlier, the state medical examiner said six of the seven victims – Cassidy Fae Pendley, 18; Lauren Astrid Kristiana Mahon, 18; Justin Michael Anderson, 19; Travis Lane Cale, 19; Allison Walden, 18; William Rhea, 18; and Emily Lauren Yelton, 18 – had blood alcohol content ranging from 0.16 to 0.29.

All seven died in their sleep from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, said the doctors who performed the autopsies.

When the initial report on the autopsies was released in November, Brunswick County District Attorney Rex Gore downplayed the significance of the presence of alcohol in the students' bodies. Gore noted that one student killed had no alcohol and said drinking did not play a role in causing the fire.

Investigators believe that improperly discarded smoking materials started the fire on a back deck of the house, at 1 Scotland St., on Oct. 28, 2007. However, extensive damage prevented officials from definitively determining a cause.

Smoke alarms in the house activated, and six students staying on the first floor managed to get out safely. All the students who died were found on the second floor.

Six of the deceased students attended the University of South Carolina, and one went to Clemson University.