Teen died of seizure
Alcohol played no role in death, coroner says
October 3, 2005
A seizure killed 17-year-old Adele Dombrowski, an autopsy showed.
Also, a toxicology report showed Dombrowski had a minimal amount of alcohol in her system, meaning alcohol played no role in her death, said Deputy Routt County Coroner Mitch Locke.
Locke said the official cause of death is “cardiopulmonary arrest consistent with a grand mal seizure.” Cardiopulmonary arrest means the heart and lungs stopped functioning.
Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg, who is out of town, was notified of the cause of death by the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, which performed the autopsy and made the ruling. Ryg notified Locke, who reported the cause of death to members of the media.
Dombrowski’s mother, Kris Stouffer, and father, Daryl Dombrowski, were notified first of the cause of death, Locke said.
The family declined to speak directly to the newspaper when contacted Tuesday. However, Stouffer sent word through a family friend that the coroner’s report makes it clear that her daughter died of natural causes and that she hopes the community accepts that finding. Dombrowski had a history of seizures, but they were not common, the family friend said.
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Locke said that after suffering the seizure, Dombrowski quit breathing which caused her heart to stop. He estimated that she died at about 2 a.m. Sept. 24. She was found in her bed later that morning by a friend who stopped by to pick her up for tennis practice.
The toxicology report showed Dombrowski’s blood-alcohol content was .013, which is “hardly anything,” Locke said. Colorado uses a BAC of .08 — more than six times Dombrowski’s level — as its drunken driving threshold.
“There was not a thing in her,” Locke said. “Alcohol had nothing to do with it.”
Locke said the toxicology report also showed no signs of any drugs, including seizure medication. Locke did not know if Dombrowski was prescribed medication for seizures or not.
Locke said the full autopsy report might not be available for another two months. The Pilot & Today has requested a copy.
Dombrowski was a popular senior at Steamboat Springs High School who played volleyball, tennis and hockey, sang in the choir and played the flute. Friends described her as warm and gracious.
The night before she died, Dombrowski and other teens traveled to Craig for a football game between Steamboat Springs and Moffat County. Witnesses interviewed by police indicated Dombrowski was drinking that night along with other teens.
A 20-year-old man was arrested Sept. 25, after he allegedly confessed to police that he purchased a bottle of rum and made it available to Dombrowski. The man, Kevin Miller Neuwirth, said he bought the alcohol from the Bottleneck, which was cited for selling alcohol to a minor.
According to the Epilepsy Therapy Development Project, a nonprofit research organization whose mission is to assist patients with epilepsy and their families, a grand mal seizure is also called a tonic-clonic seizure. Such seizures are “characterized by a loss of consciousness, falling, stiffening, and jerking.” The electrical discharge produced by such a seizure involves all or most of the brain.
The Epilepsy Therapy Development Project warns through its Web site, http://www.epilepsy.com, that binge drinking or alcohol withdrawal can have serious consequences for those with epilepsy. However, the site also says that moderate consumption of alcohol is not associated with increased seizure activity.
Speaking through the family friend, Stouffer thanked the community for its continued support. Stouffer said her daughter would have appreciated the genuine caring residents have shown.
To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org