(Received 17 August 1989; accepted 29 January 1990)
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The results of toxicological analyses of the body fluids of the victims from the accident involving the British Air Tours Boeing 737 in August 1985 are presented for carboxyhemoglobin, cyanide, and volatiles.
All the victims except one had raised concentrations of carbon monoxide. All the victims had raised concentrations of cyanide. All the victims showed the presence of volatile substances in the blood. Autopsies revealed that all the victims had carbon particles in the trachea and bronchi. Thus, all the victims must have inhaled fire products in the burning aircraft cabin. Six victims had concentrations of carbon monoxide or cyanide in the blood that were neither fatal nor incapacitating; therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that these six victims survived for a comparatively short time and that there may have been other causes, in addition to toxic fumes, for their deaths. The other 48 victims must have survived long enough in the fire to accumulate incapacitating or fatal concentrations of carbon monoxide or cyanide or both. The effects of these substances found in the blood of each of the 48 victims must have combined to produce an insurmountable impediment to escape from the aircraft.
Squadron leader and officer in charge of toxicology, Royal Air Force Institute of Pathology and Tropical Medicine, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire
Stock #: JFS13018J