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The Daily Tar Heel

Cause of Fatal Accident Unclear

The victim, 77-year-old James Elijah Ellis of Henderson, was crossing the street in front of Time Out when he was hit by a white BMW 5-series sedan.

Police would not comment on the identity of the driver.

Chapel Hill police reported that Ellis was transported by ambulance to UNC Hospitals, where hospital staff say he was pronounced dead about 10:10 p.m.

Orange County medical examiner Jason Reutter, who performed the autopsy Wednesday, said the cause of death was blunt force head trauma.

"Basically what he has is a laceration in his scalp," he said. "It's not where the car hit him but where he hit the ground."

Reutter said it is difficult to tell if Ellis crossed the street, walked out into the street and tried to walk back to the sidewalk or simply stumbled into the road.

There were no other points of impact other than the head that contributed to Ellis' death, Reutter said.

He added that Ellis had a heart condition but that there was no connection between the accident and the heart condition.

The BMW could have been traveling at as little as 10 mph, Reutter said, but the exact speed of the vehicle has not yet been verified by police.

"Even very slow-moving vehicles, when they hit somebody it can cause damage -- especially maybe an older person who doesn't have good balance," he said.

The car suffered visible damage in the accident to its right front section, including a severed rear-view mirror and a spiderweb crack in the corner of the windshield.

Maj. Tony Oakley of the Chapel Hill Police Department said that the preliminary police report did not contain the speed of the vehicle but that the speed will be determined using measurements and tests at the scene of the accident. Officers worked on the scene for more than an hour collecting data.

Reutter said alcohol likely wasn't a factor in the accident.

"Nobody believes that alcohol was involved either with the driver or the victim," he said.

As of Wednesday, no charges had been filed in the collision.

Oakley said police will know whether the driver will be charged with anything when the final report is completed Friday.

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