Maryland State Police are investigating the actions of troopers who detained an apparently intoxicated but uninjured driver after an accident early Saturday, unaware of internal injuries that would kill him two hours later.
Kevin B. Padgette, 33, of Jefferson, Md., did not seem injured and refused to be taken to a hospital by emergency medical workers at the accident scene on Interstate 70, state police spokesman Peter Piringer said today.
Troopers took Padgette to a state police barracks here for processing on a charge of driving while intoxicated after noticing he smelled strongly of alcohol and finding a marijuana pipe in the car, Piringer said.
Before he could take a Breathalyzer test, Padgette became short of breath, vomited and slumped over in a chair, prompting the troopers to begin first aid and call paramedics, police said. The paramedics arrived within four minutes and then took him to Frederick Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 6 a.m.
An autopsy indicated he had a ruptured aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart, an injury consistent with an automobile crash, Piringer said.
The death was under investigation by the agency's special investigative support unit and its internal affairs unit, Piringer said.
Piringer said that Padgette had no outward signs of injury or shock when he refused at the accident scene to be examined at a hospital.
"We are not in a position to force anyone to go to the hospital if they don't want to go," Piringer said.
Surviving for more than two hours with a damaged aorta would not be unusual, according to University of Maryland Medical Center thoracic surgeon Joshua Sonett, who said a damaged aorta can temporarily be held in place by surrounding tissue structures.
If aware of the injury, surgeons can repair the aorta most of the time, Sonett said.
Padgette, a painter and small-business owner, was not known to drink alcohol, according to his father-in-law, George Gayno of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.