Medical examiner: Heart condition, dust cleaner led to Gage’s death


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Submitted: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 5:21pm
Updated: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 1:37am
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A UNC student from Wilmington died earlier this year after ingesting dust cleaner, the effects of which were likely made worse by an underlying heart condition, according to a report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Investigators say roommates found Stedman Gage, 22, unresponsive in his bed in a Chapel Hill apartment Feb. 23. According to the autopsy report, Gage had a reported history of substance abuse and “was found face-down in his bed, with a can of computer duster/cleaner spray in the bed, and multiple similar empty cans elsewhere in the room.”

The exam found Gage suffered from pulmonary congestion and edema, as well as dilated cardiomyopathy. Toxicology tests showed the presence of 1,1 difluoroethane, which the medical examiner says is found in aerosol computer duster/cleaner spray. They also found low levels of alprazolam and oxycodone. The report points out Gage did not have any “recent reported prescriptions for these medications, and they would have an additive toxic effect.”

The medical examiner said in his opinion the cause of Gage’s death was 1,1 difluoroethane toxicity, which “can have cardiotoxic effects, and likely caused an acute cardiac arrhythmia in the decedent. His underlying cardiovascular disease would make him more susceptible to these toxic effects.”

Gage’s mother is Hannah Gage, a member of the UNC System Board of Governors and former chair of the board. She was also a member of the UNCW Board of Trustees, according to her biography on the UNC System website.

7 Comments

  • 357sig says:

    Self inflicted. What a waste.

  • guest 2 says:

    I am so sorry for this family and their loss. I am also sorry that their private information has to be shared with the public. It is horrific to lose a child but to have such intimate details shared with everyone makes it even worse. My prayers are with them.

  • guesty says:

    ..dust cleaner.

  • A. Friend says:

    Bill and Hannah Gage have been devoted parents, and I am sad for them. But I am glad their social and political prominence did not prevent the cause of death being truthfully reported, and I hope their college-age son’s death from substance abuse will provide his parents with a forum to serve as a warning to other college students that chemical abuse is not a recreational sport, but can have devastating, life-ending, consequences.

  • justin says:

    “…and then let’s drag the family’s laundry through the streets…”.

    Stay classy TV3….real classy.

  • Guesttoo says:

    No, it’s not “classy”…nor is it intended to be.

    However, if this story opens a dialogue between a family and their school-age child…and that conversation helps prevent another needless death, I think it’s worth reporting it. I’d like to think the family would agree.

  • Lifesaver says:

    If this article was printed to save lives, why not report on the issue as a whole instead of singling out this family? This is old news and in the opinion of many, is not newsworthy. The news will print anything to sell paper.

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