A Cobb County autopsy report released Thursday claims that the man who died inside a walk-in cooler at SunTrust Park in June was accidentally killed by carbon dioxide.
Todd Keeling, 48, collapsed and died because carbon dioxide quickly replaced the oxygen inside the cooler where he was installing his beer tap invention, according to the autopsy. A test by the fire department found the carbon dioxide level inside the space doubled within a few minutes of turning on the valve system.
A Braves spokeswoman did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment about the newly released information.
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The autopsy said Keeling had injuries to his head and quickly became unconscious from carbon dioxide, which is used to carbonate beer. A Cobb spokesman said a cell phone on him wasn’t used. The autopsy suggested “that the fall/collapse was very rapid or that he was so disoriented that he was unable to form or act on logical thought processes.”
Investigators also found the cooler’s door handle was malfunctioning. However, there is no evidence Keeling tried to use the door, Cobb spokesman Ross Cavitt said in an announcement of the autopsy report.
This is the first time authorities have released information since the Minnesota father of four was found dead June 26.
Fran Kuchta, Keeling’s aunt, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time that her nephew was excited another major league stadium wanted his invention.
Draftwell was set to slash pour times at SunTrust Park from a 14-second average to five seconds. She said that Draftwell was already installed at the Chicago White Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Field and the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field.
“This is his dream since he was a kid,” Kuchta said.
It isn’t clear how long Keeling was inside the cooler at SunTrust Park because, according to Cavitt, a nearby surveillance camera wasn’t working.
The Braves also did not immediately respond to questions about why there were multiple equipment failures at the two-year-old ballpark.
A worker found Keeling’s body in the cooler behind a concession area of Section 331, according to a Cobb police incident report. Workers pulled Keeling from the cooler and tried to give him CPR.
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The cooler where Keeling was found doesn’t go below 40 degrees and is large enough to hold pallets of beer, Cobb police spokeswoman Officer Sarah O’Hara said at the time.
Dr. Ernest P. Chiodo, a physician-toxicologist with an expertise in occupational and industrial medicine, cast doubt on the medical examiner’s clear-cut analysis.
Based on Keeling’s health and the circumstances of his death, he could also have died from a heart attack, Chiodo said in a phone interview Thursday. “Because the autopsy findings would be the same.”
He said it’s not common for there to be carbon dioxide detectors or alarms inside coolers like the one where Keeling was found.
The autopsy report said Keeling was not using the proper safety equipment but did not go into further detail. The Cobb medical examiner’s office was not immediately available for comment.
Because he died while on the job, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also looking into his death. Agency spokesman Michael D’Aquino confirmed Thursday that they are still investigating.
An OSHA study from 2015 estimated the number of carbon dioxide deaths in confined spaces to be 90 per year.
Keeling’s two teen sons were in Atlanta helping him install the system at SunTrust Park but left a few days prior, Kuchta said. Keeling stayed behind to finish the installation.
“He always liked to be on his own and try different things,” she said.
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