An unusual case involving an elderly women who died in her fire-scorched car on a Thousand Oaks cul-de-sac has been listed as an accident by the Ventura County medical examiners office.
Astrid Doermann, 70, of Westlake Village died Monday of asphyxiation by inhaling smoke and carbon dioxide, according to Jim Wingate, chief deputy coroner.
Authorities don't know why Doermann did not get out of the car after it caught fire.
" 'Abnormal' is the word I'd use," Wingate said. Doermann may have perished "because of how fast the fire went through the car and because she wasn't able to get out for some reason," he said.
Authorities said the fire started around the 1992 Ford Probe's catalytic converter--the environmental filter connected to the exhaust system--and ignited nearby brush.
Doermann had been driving east on Read Road in Thousand Oaks when she attempted to make a turn at the end of the cul-de-sac.
A portion of her car went over the edge of the road, getting stuck in the dirt and brush.
"She was spinning her wheels," said Capt. Dennis Carpenter of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.
An unidentified foreman of a nearby ranch discovered Doermann and told her he would call for a tow truck, and returned to work, Carpenter said.
When the foreman and Bill Hager, a county fire investigator who was driving nearby, saw smoke and arrived at the scene 15 minutes later, the car and surrounding brush were engulfed in flames.
After county firefighters extinguished the blaze, which took about 30 minutes, Doermann was discovered sitting in the car.