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