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Unusual mode of death in case of cold water immersion

Author Affiliations

  • 1Inspector General of Police, Hisar Range, Hisar-125001, Haryana, India
  • 2Pt. B.D. Sharma University of Health Sciences, Rohtak, Haryana, India
  • 3Deptt. of Forensic Medicine, Pt. B.D. Sharma PGIMS, Rohtak, Haryana, India
  • 4Pt. B.D. Sharma University of Health Sciences, Rohtak, Haryana, India
  • 5Inspector General of Police, State Crime Branch, Haryana

Res. J. Forensic Sci., Volume 6, Issue (1), Pages 7-9, February,29 (2018)


Death due to drowning is one of the intricate situations confronted by the forensic medical specialist. Death in drowning can happen either due to asphyxia, ventricular fibrillation, laryngeal spasm, vagal inhibition, exhaustion and other injuries. Sudden death in cold water immersion can cause death from inhibition of heart due to vagal stimulation. Such death is usually known as instantaneous physiological death, vasovagal shock, vagal inhibition or neurogenic shock. As a result of this, cardiac and respiratory centres are suddenly paralysed with consequent stoppage of heart and respiration resulting in immediate loss of life. The cause of such vagal inhibition include: sudden fright or emotion and injury to trigger receptor areas, such as carotid sinus, various plexus, testicles, serous membrane, etc. even a trifling injury to these area may result in sudden death. Through this paper we explored as well as contemplated the evidences supporting the hypothesis that unexpected i.e. out of sudden a plunge and immersion of the body in the cold water could cause sudden death due to vagal inhibition. An autopsy case is discussed here in which dead body was found in the well of a village and post-mortem examination showed no antemortem injury.


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