Fatal Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After the Detonation of Explosives in an Underground Mine: A Case Report

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An unusual death caused by carbon monoxide poisoning after the detonation of explosives in an underground mine was investigated by the Office of the Medical Investigator of the State of New Mexico. The 50-year-old miner had 18 years of mining experience but no documented safety training. He collapsed approximately 20 minutes after entering the mine and working at the bottom of the single vertical shaft. The tight confines of the mine shaft hindered rescue personnel from reaching him, and the body was not recovered until 2 days later. The autopsy showed severe coronary artery atherosclerosis with remote and resolving myocardial microinfarcts, as well as the characteristic pink lividity of carbon monoxide poisoning, which was confirmed by laboratory analysis. Detailed investigation of the scene revealed no sources of carbon monoxide other than the explosives. The case represents an uncommon cause of death in mining that may have been avoided through the use of proper safety procedures, and illustrates the importance of recognizing the many sources of carbon monoxide.

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