UPDATED at 9:30 a.m. Friday with additional detail from medical examiner who performed autopsy.
ST. LOUIS — The city’s chief medical examiner said Friday that Blues hockey great Bob Plager likely died of a “cardiac event” and not from injuries suffered in a vehicle crash this week on Highway 40 (Interstate 64).
Dr. Michael Graham performed an autopsy on the 78-year-old Plager. Although Graham is awaiting results of routine toxicology tests and will be doing more work, he said his preliminary finding is that Plager suffered the cardiac event before crashing his SUV on Wednesday.
“Not only the autopsy but the nature of the crash and things like that, when we put it all together, it’s likely a cardiac event,” Graham told the Post-Dispatch. “We think that the cardiac event caused the crash. There was no life-threatening damage to any vital organs from the crash.”
Graham said he had not yet received Plager’s medical history. Graham said he doesn’t like to use the term heart attack. He said the heart is an electrically driven pump, and in Plager’s case the electrical rhythm of the heart was disturbed and the muscle didn’t pump.
Plager was pronounced dead at a hospital after the crash, which happened about 1:15 p.m. Wednesday on eastbound Highway 40 near Tower Grove Avenue.
The cause and manner of death are pending, and it could be eight to 10 weeks before the death certificate is certified.
Plager was alone in his 2013 Cadillac SRX when it veered to the left and struck a minivan, then struck a concrete wall on the right. His SUV then crossed all lanes and slammed into the concrete center median, police said.
The minivan his SUV struck was an eastbound 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan. It was driven by a 46-year-old woman. Her lone passenger was a 20-year-old woman. Authorities initially said one of the women suffered minor injuries but an updated police account Thursday said neither woman was hurt.
Plager’s death shocked longtime fans and admirers of the man who played 11 years and 615 games with the Blues, and became a face of the franchise through decades of continued work with the organization.
Photos: Bob Plager through the years with the Blues
Original St. Louis Blues player Bob Plager opened the team’s 50th season between the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Plager was a member of the original 1967-68 Blues team.
Kim Bell • 314-340-8115 @kbellpd on Twitter firstname.lastname@example.org