A new report from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office confirms that a Sapulpa man died from choking on a trash bag while in the care of a state nursing home for veterans.
Leonard Smith, 70, was an advanced-dementia patient living in a locked-down special-needs unit at the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina when he choked to death Jan. 31 after being given food, fluids and medication. After he died, a medical provider found that he had a plastic bag lodged deep in his throat.
In its final report on the death, the medical examiner determined Smith’s probable cause of death was asphyxia due to choking on a foreign body and the manner of his death was accidental.
The ME’s report revealed that included with items sent with Smith’s body to be examined was what was found in his throat: “a twisted clear trash bag covered in pink vomitus. The trash bag is intact and measures 24 (inches) in length and 1 (inch) in width when twisted. When the trash bag is untwisted, it measures 5 (inches) in width.”
Christine Cornwell, a Tulsa County resident and Smith’s niece, whom he had entrusted with his power of attorney, said the ME’s report may close a chapter in Smith’s death but not her and other relatives’ anguish over the circumstances.