Preventable fatal injury during rally race: a multidisciplinary approach

Maria Chiara Terranova, Sergio Salerno, Stefania Zerbo, Antonina Argo, Clio Bilotta, Ginevra Malta, Giulio Perrone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The motor vehicle crash (MVC) constitutes an important challenge for forensic pathology in order to identify the manner and cause of death. Our study focuses on a fatal accident during a rally race corresponding to MVC sub-category. Materials and method: Postmortem computed tomography (PMCT) was performed before the conventional autopsy. Autoptic and PMCT data were compared. Data collection allowed analyzing biomechanical dynamics of the incident and post-traumatic injuries through qualitative-statistics and solicitation quantitative indices. Results: Photo and circumstantial evidence analysis showed a wrong installation of double shoulder belt system of head and neck support (HANS) collar. PMTC clearly highlighted multiple and bilateral fractures involving roof and base of skull; a displaced fracture of the right acetabulum was also encountered. Autopsy confirmed PMCT data and revealed a brainstem laceration. AIS (Abbreviated Injury Scale) achieved a maximum score in consideration of fatal injuries. Discussion: The injuries analysis resulting from photographic surveys examination, conventional autopsy, and PMCT has led us to confirm a fatal front collision with a tree trunk. Head trauma represents a major injury in the present case. In this case, head injuries, related to whiplash trauma, are a consequence of a double shoulder belt system (HANS collar component) wrong installation. Conclusion: MVC and especially high-speed motor racing represent an important death cause. There was, for this reason, a marked development of cars and occupants’ safety systems, such as HANS collar. PMCT improves the diagnostic performance of conventional autopsy and increases forensic medical knowledge related to traumatic injuries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Legal Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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