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Cory Lidle (born 3/22/72) was a major league baseball player who last played for the New York Yankees in 2006 as a pitcher. He died tragically when a small private plane he was piloting smashed into a building in New York City. Since this is a medical website, focus here is on the nature of his death. Many people correctly assume that death in such a tragic accident is instantaneous, but the exact cause of death in an accident such as this is rarely discussed.
In any type of crash in which someone is rapidly accelerating and strikes an object causing rapid deceleration, tremendous physical forces are exerted on the brain, causing it to violently shake back and forth within the skull. In serious acceleration-deceleration accidents, the brainstem is often damaged, which caused it to rapidly swell. The brainstem is an area in the lower part of the brain that connects it with the spinal cord. Since the brainstem does not have much room to expand, the pressure causes significant damage. The brainstem contains structures that regulate arousal and the most basic of life functions such as breathing. Therefore, if this area is seriously damaged, as would occur in a plane crash, loss of consciousness and death are virtually instantaneous because the forces involved are so significant.