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Edmonton trucker was hypoglycemic before fatal plunge

EDMONTON, Alta. -- The chief medical examiner has concluded that Mark Santos was hypoglycemic when he drove a semi-...

EDMONTON, Alta. — The chief medical examiner has concluded that Mark Santos was hypoglycemic when he drove a semi-trailer 15 kilometres in the wrong direction, down the Yellowhead Trail in late March, according to a recent story in the Edmonton Journal.

The truck narrowly missed numerous motorists swerving out of his path. His truck then tumbled off an overpass, plunging in flames to the train tracks below.

“Mr. Santos died as a result of the fire, and the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn following our investigation, is that he was suffering from a low blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia, as a complication of his diabetes at the time,” medical investigator Ted Pretty said.

The medical examiner’s findings parallel a police investigation that concluded in June. Traffic detectives decided that Santos, 25, was suffering from a medical problem March 31 that resulted in the afternoon crash that killed him.

Dr. James Shapiro, a leading diabetes researcher at the University of Alberta, said low blood sugar can have dramatic effects on behaviour.

“When it drops below a certain point, the brain stops functioning and patients become completely unconscious,” said Shapiro, director of the university’s clinical islet transplant program.

Patients who have had diabetes for a long time grow used to having low blood sugar. At a certain level, some will enter a state of partial consciousness.

“In the grey-zone area, patients can do strange things,” Shapiro said. “They may experience a disconnect with their surroundings.

Shapiro has seen this in islet transplant patients. The state can persist for hours, he said.

Santos had Type 1 diabetes since childhood. He had previous episodes of seizures when his blood sugar dropped. The medical examiner’s findings are in line with what many in Santos’ family have maintained since his death.

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