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USA. A motorcyclist changed lanes on the freeway to avoid stopped traffic ahead of him. As he started to change lanes, he struck the rear of the vehicle in front of him and also another vehicle before traveling into the next lane where he went underneath a tractor-trailer and was rolled over by the rear wheels. The tractor-trailer did not stop.

Fig.1 The damaged motorcycle.

Fig.2 The interrupted trail of blood leading away from the heart creates the impression that the beating heart skipped along the road to its final resting position.

In the foreground of Fig.2 is the damaged motorcycle; a trail of tissue leads from the motorcycle to the body covered by a yellow sheet in the center lane. His helmet had been knocked off his head (Fig.3). A compound comminuted fracture of the head and face was obvious (Fig.4). The extruded heart was next to the motorcycle. The interrupted trail of blood leading away from the heart creates the impression that the beating heart skipped along the road to its final resting position (Fig.1). Portions of avulsed bowel were on the road (Fig.5). The gaping defect adjacent to the left axilla was where the heart was extruded from the chest (Fig.6). An impressive amount of tissue strewn on the road from the crushed victim was collected (Fig.7). The cause of death was blunt trauma.

Fig.3 The motorcyclist’s helmet had been knocked off his head.

Fig.4 A compound comminuted fracture of the head and face.

Some of the most impressive cases of trauma result from motor vehicle-related incidents. The pathologist will appreciate the nature of the forces involved by viewing the extent of the destruction at these scenes. Traffic investigators can demonstrate markings on the road and other scene findings to explain the events leading to the final resting positions of the vehicle(s) and victim(s).

Fig.5 Portions of avulsed bowel were on the road.

Fig.6 The gaping defect adjacent to the left axilla was where the heart was extruded from the chest.

Fig.7 An impressive amount of tissue strewn on the road from the crushed victim was collected.

Points to consider

  • Photography of all traffic scenes should try to capture the circumstances surrounding the cause of the crash.
  • Taking photographs from all sides of the vehicle(s) and victim(s) is important.
  • Some victims will need to be extricated from their crushed vehicles by the jaws of life.
  • Removal of the roof, doors, or body panels will allow visualization of the body in situ within a crushed vehicle.
  • A pedestrian victim of a hit-and-run incident may harbor physical evidence on his or her body and clothing.
  • The clothed body of a hit-and-run victim may be wrapped in a clean, white sheet prior to removal from the scene so that all trace evidence can be recovered under optimal lighting conditions in the morgue.
  • The clothing and the white sheet should be receipted to the investigative agency to maintain the proper chain of custody.
  • Scalp hair and blood from the victim, which can be used for DNA evidence, should also be receipted to the investigative agency.

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