Autopsy Reveals Cause of Death for Air Force Cadet Who Collapsed and Died on Way to Class


Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

A U.S. Air Force Academy cadet and football player died suddenly Jan. 9 from a blood clot resulting from a foot injury he sustained during practice two months earlier, according to an autopsy report.

Offensive lineman Hunter Brown, 21, collapsed and died after he left his dorm room and as he was walking to class at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

His shocking death captivated and alarmed much of the country, coming amid a string of similar incidents involving apparently healthy young people.

“With heavy hearts we share the loss of a cadet,” the academy tweeted Jan. 10. “C3C Hunter Brown died Monday after suffering a medical emergency while on his way to class. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, teammates and fellow cadets.”

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KKTV-TV in Colorado Springs published an autopsy report from the El Paso County, Colorado, Coroner’s Office on Feb. 1.

The report contained a full opinion from Dr. Jarod Murdoch.

“Based on the history, scene investigation, autopsy, virology, and toxicology findings, it is my opinion that Hunter Brown, a 21-year-old white male, died as a result of pulmonary thromboembolism due to deep vein thrombosis resulting from Lisfranc injury of the left lower extremity,” he wrote.

“The overall findings are consistent with this being an accidental death originating from an injury sustained during football practice several weeks prior to death,” Murdoch concluded.

Brown, who was 6-foot-3 and 292 pounds at the time of his death, had undergone surgery for a Lisfranc injury to his left foot in November, The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported.

Lisfranc injuries “result if bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments that support the midfoot are torn,” according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

“A low-energy Lisfranc injury can happen with a simple twist and fall,” AAOS said. “It is also commonly seen in football and soccer players when one player lands on the back of another player’s foot while the foot is flexed downward in the push-off position.”

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The autopsy also found Brown had an enlarged liver, heart and spleen at the time of his death, according to The Gazette.

Brown was a standout player on two winning teams. After he died, Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun remembered him as a “pure joy.”

“Our players, staff and entire Academy have been so blessed and fortunate to have Hunter as a part of our lives. He was a pure joy to coach and have as a teammate,” Calhoun said in a statement.

Brown’s parents told their son’s death stunned them. Dustin Brown, a Navy veteran, said playing football for the academy allowed his son to fulfill his dreams on and off the field.

“He wanted to kind of carry on that legacy, and he wanted to play football,” he said. “He found the opportunity to do both at the Air Force Academy.”

“What happened was a total shock,” mother Candyce Brown said. “He was just a great kid, but to know that multiple people have come to us and said that he helped them through hard times, for me that’s one thing that kind of stands out … that I’m very proud of.”

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.