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Coroner: Man found under truck died of 'mechanical asphyxia'

Nov 27, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Officials said Sterling Blackburn, 21, of Riverton, had died of mechanical asphyxia Oct. 4 when he was discovered underneath a pickup truck at the Cedar Bar, 413 E. Fremont Ave.

According to, mechanical asphyxia takes place when external pressure on the chest prevents normal respiration.

In Blackburn's case, Coroner Ed McAuslan said the asphyxia was caused by the presence of the vehicle on top of Blackburn's body. The truck's owner

reportedly did not know Blackburn was under the vehicle when the owner attempted to drive away from the parking lot at about 10:45 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4.

"I've listed it as an accident," McAuslan said. "(Blackburn) just went out and for some reason he crawled under the truck. ... Maybe he was looking for shelter on a cold night, I don't know."

Autopsy results also show Blackburn was intoxicated at the time of his death. His blood-alcohol content was measured at .256 grams per deciliter.

Riverton Police Department officers who arrived on scene said the pickup truck was on top of Blackburn, who was unresponsive and not breathing. Officers reportedly tried to pull Blackburn out from under the truck but were unsuccessful. The Riverton Volunteer Fire Department used air bags to lift the truck so Blackburn could be released, officials said.

The RPD is investigating the case, but McAuslan said he doesn't see any evidence to indicate that potential criminal charges could be pending against the driver of the truck.

RPD officials were not available for comment on Tuesday.

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