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Death Caused by a Signal Rocket—Not an Isolated Case

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Abstract: 

Fatalities related to sporting events are predominantly caused by blunt force injuries especially due to the emotional involvement of crowd, but occasionally other types of trauma are reported as well. A case of very rare trauma caused by shooting with a hand-held parachute signal rocket during a football match is presented. A 17-year-old football fan sustained fatal injuries, a combination of mechanical trauma caused by rocket penetration, as well as extensive thermal burning of the thoracic viscera. Analysis of the event was based on autopsy findings and evidence produced by medicolegal and ballistic experts. Improper use of a hand-held signal rocket, designed for marine distress signals, may cause serious injuries either mechanically, due to explosion, or as a result of thermal discharge. In the reported case, pattern of injuries is discussed, and medical finding corroborated to other available evidence. The presented case is a reminder that the forensic pathologist should be informed accordingly on the type and features of weapon suspected to produce injury, to be able to understand traumatic changes, and look for potential presence of foreign bodies at postmortem examination.
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Keywords: autopsy; forensic pathology; forensic science; shot wounds; signal rocket

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Belgrade 11000, Serbia.

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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