An Ottawa pathologist who performed an autopsy on Elisapee Michael in 2009 has told a coroner's inquest that the 52-year-old Iqaluit woman had a fractured skull and a blood clot at the back of her brain.

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Elisapee Michael, 52, died of brain injuries in an Ottawa hospital on Aug. 13, 2009, about five days after she had fallen down the front stairs of an Iqaluit hotel. ((CBC))

Dr. Christopher Milroy, a staff forensic pathologist at The Ottawa Hospital, performed the autopsy on Michael on Aug. 17, 2009, nine days after she had fallen down the front stairs of the Nova Inn in Iqaluit.

The inquest has heard that Michael was initially taken to Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit shortly after she fell on Aug. 8, but she was transferred to the local RCMP drunk tank after medical staff deemed her to be intoxicated and disruptive.

Michael spent 14 hours in an RCMP cell until the afternoon of Aug. 9, when officers noticed that she was showing signs of brain damage. She was rushed back to hospital, then flown to the Ottawa facility, where she died on Aug. 13.

Testifying before the inquest in Iqaluit on Tuesday, Milroy said Michael's body showed a number of bumps and bruises, as well as a two-centimetre fracture on the back of her skull.

Milroy also observed bruising on Michael's brain, especially at the back of the brain, where the doctor noted a thick blood clot. Those details were confirmed by a CT scan that was done in Ottawa.

Milroy said he officially declared the cause of death to be a head injury. The injuries she sustained were consistent with a backwards fall, he said.

Under questioning by lawyers, Milroy said Michael could have benefited from brain surgery, but too much time had passed between her fall down the Nova Inn steps and her arrival at The Ottawa Hospital for brain surgery to have been beneficial.

Was asked to leave bar

The inquest has also heard from people who were at the Nova Inn, where Michael had been drinking at the hotel's bar on the night of Aug. 8.

Kicking Caribou Lounge manager Sean Olson described Michael as a regular patron who was drinking with a few other people that night.

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Michael fell head-first down the metal front steps of the Nova Inn on the night of Aug. 8, 2009, after she had been asked to leave the hotel's lounge, the inquest heard. ((CBC))

The inquest heard an audio statement from Heidi Melenchuk, a server who was working at the lounge that night. She said she was approached around 11 p.m. by someone who wanted Michael to leave the premises because she was asking other people to buy her beer.

Olson said Michael had consumed about five beers before she was asked to leave. Michael came back to the lounge and had to be asked to leave a second time, he testified.

Melenchuk said that she escorted Michael, who seemed wobbly and unsteady, to the hotel's front entrance. A security guard, Michael Murphy, told the inquest that one of Michael's relatives joined her outside.

Taxi driver Roland Brodeur said he was parked outside the hotel when he saw a younger woman helping an older woman down the hotel's front stairs.

The younger woman let go of Michael's arm for a second or two. Michael missed the fourth or fifth step and fell head-first onto the ground, Brodeur testified.

Murphy testified that he and other hotel employees had previously complained about the metal front stairs, saying he had seen others fall down those steps before.

The one-and-a-half-week inquest is expected to hear from its final witness, Iqaluit RCMP Sgt. Peter Pilgrim, on Wednesday. The six-person inquest jury will be expected to issue its recommendations on Thursday or Friday.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story implied Heidi Melenchuk testified at the inquest in person. In fact, the inquest heard an audio recording of her statement.
    Sep 17, 2014 10:47 AM CT