Friday, February 11, 2011

Ashley Turton's Freak Death Gets More Strange

A D.C. medical examiner is suggesting D.C. lobbyist Ashley Turton was highly intoxicated when she arose in the early morning hours last month to begin a big day for her employer--the announcement Progress Energy would be merging with Duke Energy to form the nation's largest public utility. Her intoxicated condition apparently caused her to crash her SUV in her garage at a low speed, causing some flammable materials to be spilled that erupted into flames that consumed her car and claimed her life. From the Washington Post:

The death of a lobbyist in a Capitol Hill garage fire last month has been ruled accidental by the D.C. medical examiner's office, which said Friday that 37-year-old Ashley Turton died from "thermal burns" and inhaling "products of combustion."

An autospy also found that "acute alcohol intoxication" contributed to her death, the office said.

Turton, an energy company lobbyist, was found shortly after 5 a.m. on Jan. 10 in her sport-utility vehicle, which was damaged by fire in the garage of her home in the 800 block of A Street SE, authorities said. She lived there with her husband, Daniel A. Turton, 43, the White House's deputy director of legislative affairs for the House of Representatives.

The medical examiner's office declined to elaborate on its conclusion that Turton was drunk at the time of the predawn fire. The incident remains under investigation, said D.C. fire department spokesman Pete Piringer.

Authorities said they are continuing to look into Turton's activities immediately before her death and studying the contents and layout of the garage and the mechanics of her 2008 BMW X-5 as they try to establish the sequence of events.

Investigators think Turton was backing out of the garage when the BMW rolled forward, striking a work bench, Piringer said.

The "low-speed" collision apparently ignited the fire, Piringer said. WTOP radio has reported that experts are exploring the possibility that antifreeze spilled from the SUV's damaged radiator and was ignited by heat from an exposed headlight bulb. There were other flammable susbstances in the garage.

Authorities have said they think Turton was striken by a medical problem or lost consciousness for some other reason as she backed up the inclined driveway. They have theorized that after she blacked out, the BMW rolled forward into the garage.

Turton's body showed no obvious signs of trauma after the fire, authorities said. They said homicide detectives found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing in her death.

Marc S. Micozzi, a pathologist on the faculty of Georgetown University School of Medicine who is not involved in the Turton case, said in an interview that "acute" alcohol intoxication occurs when a person consumes a large amount of alcohol "very quickly, in a short time."

"Thermal" burns result from heat rather than chemicals or toxic fumes, Micozzi said.

The incident occurred as Turton was leaving home earlier than usual for work, anticipating a busy day in her downtown office, colleagues said. That day, her employer, Progress Energy, and another North Carolina utilities giant, Duke Energy, announced Duke's intention to buy Progress for $13 billion in stock.

Turton and her husband had worked as congressional staffers before one became a lobbyist and the other a White House aide. They were a Washington power couple well known in Democratic circles.
Yeah, this seems entirely plausible to me. Please excuse me if I find this explanation of her death a little hard to swallow.


varangianguard said...

Maybe she liked spending time at the "frat" house?

Gary R. Welsh said...

It's more likely she enjoyed talking too much about the activities of Rahm and Barry in the basement apartment of Stan Greenberg's Capitol Hill home that were supposedly captured by a hidden cam.

Bob said...

"experts are exploring the possibility that antifreeze spilled from the SUV's damaged radiator and was ignited by heat from an exposed headlight bulb. There were other flammable substances in the garage."

Let me start with the obvious, the antifreeze mixture in a radiator isn't flammable.

If she hit a container of gasoline that dumped or sprayed its contents perhaps... but unlikely. A broken bulb will burn out almost immediately. An unbroken bulb isn't a source of combustion.