Columbine Teacher Could Not Survive

Thursday, February 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) — The Columbine High School teacher killed in the nation's worst school shooting probably would not have survived even if he had gotten help sooner, two pathologists who reviewed his autopsy said.

Portions of the autopsy reports of teacher Dave Sanders and 10 students killed in the April 1999 rampage were released Wednesday under a judge's order.

Sanders' family is suing Jefferson County Sheriff's Office for wrongful death, alleging it took authorities almost four hours to reach the science room where Sanders lay bleeding.

But pathologists who reviewed the reports for The Denver Post, which along with the Rocky Mountain News asked for the autopsies' release, said Sanders' wounds would have been fatal no matter what. One of two bullets that hit Sanders ripped his carotid artery, which supplies blood to the brain.

``A partial transection of the carotid artery is almost always fatal,'' said R.K. Wright, a forensic pathologist and former coroner of Broward County, Fla. ``Even if someone is attended to quickly, it is still a very, very serious wound. It is very, very hard to repair.''

Another bullet wound, through Sanders' back, tore his right subclavian vein, the autopsy concluded.

Witnesses said Sanders, 48, was shot as he herded hundreds of students out of the school cafeteria during the attack by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris that left 15 people dead, including the gunmen.

According to a sheriff's report released in May, Sanders was shot around 11:25 a.m., but a SWAT team was unable to move him and radioed for medical help more than three hours later. He was pronounced dead shortly after 4:45 p.m.

During the time he lay dying in a second-floor classroom, students tore off their T-shirts and pressed them to his wounds, and tried to keep him warm. They tenderly showed him pictures of his wife and daughters from his wallet.

``I'm not going to make it,'' Sanders told them. ``Tell my girls I love them.''

Peter Greiner, an attorney representing Sanders' daughter Angela, did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.

Jefferson County District Judge Brooke Jackson last week ordered the release of the full report of victim Daniel Rohrbough's autopsy. Rohrbough's parents have filed a lawsuit contending sheriff's deputies killed their son.

The autopsy showed the 15-year-old died of extensive injuries to his chest resulting in excessive bleeding.

Jackson also ordered the release of gunman Klebold's autopsy summary, but it has yet to be released pending a possible appeal by his parents. Harris' autopsy was released in June 1999 and concluded he died of massive head injuries consistent with a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the roof of the mouth.