Blood samples from broadcaster's crash unusable

Updated: August 17, 2006, 10:58 AM ET
Associated Press

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. -- Blood samples from the car crash that killed sportscaster Paul Eells apparently were damaged partly because of a delay in shipping from Russellville to Little Rock for testing, according to the Pope County coroner.

The blood from both Eells and Billie Jo Burton, the other person killed in the accident, was shipped to Little Rock to be tested by a lab at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Coroner Leonard Kraut said he chose to send the samples to UAMS instead of the state Crime Laboratory because he was told the UAMS lab could get the work done in less time. But Kraut said several factors including when he mailed the samples, a circuitous mail route, and the summer heat combined to affect the samples.

Kraut said the UAMS lab determined the samples were damaged. He said Thursday that at the request of the Arkansas State Police, the agency investigating the accident, the blood still will be tested at the state Crime Laboratory.

Eells was killed July 31 when his car crossed the median on Interstate 40 at Russellville. He hit a car being driven by Burton, of Dover. A state police report filed that week said Eells' car never slowed as it crossed the median.

Police have said they might never know what caused Eells to cross the center line. The KATV and University of Arkansas broadcaster was returning home from a golf tournament and a work assignment near the school's Fayetteville campus when the accident happened.

Capt. J.R. Hankins of the state police said Thursday normally a person has some reaction if they fall asleep while driving, but investigators saw no evidence that Eells reacted.

"We feel like he had some kind of medical problem. Maybe he was unconscious or incapacitated to the point where he couldn't control the automobile," Hankins said.

Eells, 70, was hospitalized two years ago for blood clots in his leg. Friends said he had complained the day of the accident that he felt weak.

Hankins said there were no witnesses or evidence from the scene to indicate that either driver was impaired. He said collecting blood samples is a matter of routine.

Krout said problems with blood samples come up from time to time.

"We've had a broken vial, or it's too degraded, or something went wrong," he said. "It doesn't happen very often."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press