Woman, toddler found on Florida Turnpike died from hydrogen sulfide inhalation, autopsies find
By Emilee Speck - Web Editor Posted: 4:31 PM, October 04, 2016 Updated: 4:36 PM, October 04, 2016
A woman and her 3-year-old daughter who were found on the Florida Turnpike in June died after inhaling hydrogen sulfate, according to partial autopsy reports released Tuesday.
Latifa Lincoln, 46, and her daughter were found unconscious inside their stilling-running SUV along the Florida Turnpike.
The autopsies found that both deaths were caused by hydrogen sulfide gas intoxication likely caused by a malfunction in the vehicle’s battery, according to the Orange County medical examiner’s office.
The battery that authorities found inside the vehicle was not the SUV's original battery. Investigators determined the incorrect battery was installed in the car and had stopped working properly.
The Porsche Cayenne SUV and its battery will be examined by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
A woman and her three-year-old daughter, found dead in their still-running SUV on Florida's Turnpike in June, died after inhaling hydrogen sulfide, the medical examiner's office has ruled.
The pungent, colorless gas may have come from the car battery in the Porsche Cayenne SUV, though officials will need to do more tests to know for sure, said Carrie Proudfit, a spokeswoman for the Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner's Office.
Latifa Lincoln, 46, and Maksmilla Lincoln, 3, were found dead on June 2, after the SUV bumped into a guardrail on Florida's Turnpike and came to a full stop north of mile marker 224 in Osceola County. They were driving to Miami, according to a voicemail Lincoln left before her death.
Their deaths remained unexplained for months as officials investigated and waited for toxicology results.
A Florida Highway Patrol trooper and two Osceola County deputies walked up to the SUV and saw that the two didn't seem to be breathing, according to their reports. The engine was still running. Lincoln was in the driver's seat, and her daughter was buckled into a child's seat in the back.
The trooper walked to the passenger's side and broke the window to try and get into the car. As soon as he did, the three smelled "a foul, caustic chemical odor," Osceola County Sheriff's Master Deputy Robert Stockman later wrote in a report.
Hydrogen sulfide typically smells like rotten egg in low concentrations, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The gas caused 60 deaths between 2001 and 2010, all of them on-the-job fatalities in fields like mining, oil and gas refining, and manufacturing.
County officials could not find another case of fatal hydrogen sulfide poisoning caused by a car battery, Proudfit said.
"This case is unprecedented," she said. "Despite the large numbers of lead acid batteries in use worldwide, no other fatalities of this type have been reported."
The SUV's battery was not the original part, Proudfit said.
"The battery was not the original battery for the vehicle, nor the correct battery and is believed to have malfunctioned," Proudfit said. "In this particular SUV, the battery is located underneath the driver's seat. Both vehicle and battery will undergo additional examination by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration."
The manner of death has not been determined, Proudfit said. In addition to finding the causes of death, medical examiners classify deaths in one of five possible manner categories: Natural, accident, suicide, homicide or undetermined.