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Pugilistic stance noted by coroner in Paul Walker's autopsy report

Paul Walker
Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Universal Pictures

A pugilistic stance is a defensive position that the body takes on (perhaps subconsciously) where the body shows flexing of elbows, knees, hip, and neck as well as clenched fists and occurs when people's bodies burn. On Jan. 3, Yahoo! News reported that actor Paul Walker's body was found in a pugilistic stance, proving that he was bracing for impact and that his body reacted to flames that engulfed his body.

"He had several fractures throughout his body, including his jaw, collarbone, and left upper arm," Yahoo! News reported, this according to the autopsy report which was released in full earlier this week.

The pugilistic stance is "caused by high-temperatures in fire, resulting in muscle stiffening and shortening; it occurs even if the person was dead before the fire" according to the Free Medical Dictionary.

While some people wondered how the coroner would learn Walker's exact cause of death, the way that his body was found and the way his muscles responded to the crash gave definitive answers. Walker was supine, or laying with his face up, which suggests that his seat was pushed back. The coroner reported that the car likely topped speeds of 100mph before the driver, Roger Rodas, lost control. Paul Walker's cause of death was listed as "combined effects of traumatic and thermal injuries."

A pugilistic stance does prove that Walker burned but doesn't prove that he "burned alive" as it's really the body's reaction to being burned (regardless if the person is dead or alive). The way that Walker died is tragic and reading the coroner's report makes it all the more depressing.

© Effie Orfanides 2014

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