Medical Examiner: Manner undetermined in Hubbard’s death

Sophomore Taylor Hubbard’s death this May after falling from a window in Guthridge Hall was caused by multiple blunt impact injuries, according to the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office.

Beverly Fields, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Medical Examiner, said although the cause of death was determined, the medical examiner was unable to determine the manner of death, or what led to Hubbard’s fall from the GW residence hall. Fields added that she could not release any information about Hubbard’s blood alcohol content the night of his fall, or any further details about the death. It is unknown if Hubbard was drinking the night he died.

Kurt Nolte, the executive vice president for the National Association of Medical Examiners, said a manner of death will be classified as undetermined when an ME cannot “distinguish with confidence” the circumstances surrounding an unnatural death. Unnatural deaths, Nolte said, include homicides, suicides and accidents.

The D.C. medical examiner likely ruled the fall as undetermined due to the lack of known information on whether Hubbard “jumped, slipped or was pushed” from the window, Nolte said, adding that the report the medical examiner received probably “lacks enough information to confidently say” which of the three scenarios took place.

Witnesses who found Hubbard shortly after 4 a.m. said he was unconscious and lying near the grass behind Guthridge Park, about 15 feet away from the base of the building. Lt. Nicholas Breul of the Metropolitan Police Department could not confirm the distance Hubbard was found from Guthridge, noting that the investigation is still ongoing.

But in August, The Hatchet asked Dr. Jamie Williams – a biomedical engineer and biomechanics and bioengineering expert at Robson Forensics – as well as one of Williams’ colleagues to examine the events surrounding Hubbard’s fall. Without a police report, Williams said she could not conclusively determine how Hubbard died, but said it is impossible “without an external force” for Hubbard to fall as far as he did from the building.

“Gravity pulls objects straight down and he did not go straight down,” Williams said. “Given that he is 5-foot-7, even if we take every liberty here, even if he was standing on the ledge, he could not have landed where he did.”

She added, “Simply falling could not have gotten him where he got. He could not have gotten there without force.”

Williams was unable to determine if Hubbard’s injuries were consistent with him being pushed or if he jumped because she did not have access to police records, she said. Another potential explanation for Hubbard’s distance from the building is that, after impact, he crawled to the location where he was found by eyewitnesses. There is no evidence in the available records to confirm any of the potential theories.

Wayne Hubbard – Taylor’s father – told The Hatchet in June that his son never regained consciousness from the time the D.C. Fire Department arrived on scene, to when doctors took him off life support.

Gwendolyn Crump, director of the Office of Communications for MPD, said the case is still under investigation but appears “accidental.”

“The case is still being looked at, but it appears to have been an accidental death,” Crump said. “It is anticipated that we will soon cease investigating further unless new information is brought to our attention and warrants further action.”

On Wednesday, the University community came together to remember Hubbard at a vigil in Kogan Plaza. University President Steven Knapp said the loss of Hubbard is “tragic” for the University.

“All of us were terribly shocked and saddened by the death of our beloved student, Taylor Hubbard, on the very morning of Commencement, following his tragic fall the day before,” Knapp said. “I have personally heard many stories about Taylor’s warmth, intelligence and compassion that make his loss all the more painful. On behalf of the entire George Washington community, I extend my deepest condolences to Taylor’s family and friends.”

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