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Medical examiner: Heart condition, dust cleaner led to Gage's death

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A UNC student from Wilmington died earlier this year after ingesting dust cleaner, the effects of which were likely made worse by an underlying heart condition, according to a report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Investigators say roommates found Stedman Gage, 22, unresponsive in his bed in a Chapel Hill apartment Feb. 23. According to the autopsy report, Gage had a reported history of substance abuse and "was found face-down in his bed, with a can of computer duster/cleaner spray in the bed, and multiple similar empty cans elsewhere in the room."

The exam found Gage suffered from pulmonary congestion and edema, as well as dilated cardiomyopathy. Toxicology tests showed the presence of 1,1 difluoroethane, which the medical examiner says is found in aerosol computer duster/cleaner spray. They also found low levels of alprazolam and oxycodone. The report points out Gage did not have any "recent reported prescriptions for these medications, and they would have an additive toxic effect."

The medical examiner said in his opinion the cause of Gage's death was 1,1 difluoroethane toxicity, which "can have cardiotoxic effects, and likely caused an acute cardiac arrhythmia in the decedent. His underlying cardiovascular disease would make him more susceptible to these toxic effects."

Gage's mother is Hannah Gage, a member of the UNC System Board of Governors and former chair of the board. She was also a member of the UNCW Board of Trustees, according to her biography on the UNC System website.

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