Autopsy shows UNC junior died from huffing computer cleaner

tgrubb@newsobserver.comMay 8, 2013 

Stedman Gage

SUBMITTED

— An autopsy released Wednesday shows the son of a UNC Board of Governors member died this year from huffing, or inhaling, computer cleaner spray .

Chapel Hill police officers found Stedman English Gage, 22, face-down and unresponsive in his bed Feb. 22 at his off-campus home on West Patterson Place in Chapel Hill.

The UNC-Chapel Hill junior was from Wilmington and the son of Bill and Hannah Gage, a former chairwoman of the UNC Board of Governors. He was also a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity.

Gage had a reported history of substance abuse, according to Dr. Samuel Simmons, with the N.C. Medical Examiner’s Office in Raleigh. Emergency responders also found a can of aerosol computer cleaning spray in the bed, and several empty cans in the room, the autopsy states.

Simmons also reported finding smaller amounts of the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam and painkiller oxycodone in Gage’s system. Gage did not have a prescription for those medications, which would have increased the spray’s toxic effects, the autopsy states.

“Given the autopsy and investigative findings, it is my opinion that the cause of death in this case is 1,1 difluoroethane toxicity. This substance, found in aerosol computer duster/cleaner spray, can have cardiotoxic effects, and likely caused an acute cardiac arrhythmia in the decedent,” Simmons reported.

Gage also had signs of cardiovascular disease, which would make him more susceptible to the spray, Simmons wrote.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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