- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

CLEVELAND (AP) - A forensic pathologist said Tuesday that U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.’s death appears to be linked to his inability to breathe after a vintage tractor tipped over on him a week ago at his family farm outside Youngstown.

Dr. Joseph Ohr of the Mahoning County coroner’s office said that an autopsy showed the 73-year-old Traficant did not suffer a heart attack or seizure and that he was told the former congressman had been in good health and spirits beforehand. Traficant died at a hospice Saturday, four days after the accident.

Ohr said that he’s on “pretty firm ground” with his diagnosis of positional asphyxiation and that similar things happen during car accidents. Traficant received no crushing injuries, Ohr said, and there was no evidence of drug or alcohol use.

Traficant was a well-known, colorful and controversial figure in the Mahoning Valley and in Washington. The 17-year congressman was expelled from the U.S. House by his colleagues in 2002 after being convicted of federal bribery and racketeering charges. He served seven years in prison and was released in September 2009.

There’s been plentiful speculation that something other than an accident may be to blame, given how careful a driver Traficant was, Ohr said.

“It’s been unsettling for the public,” he said.

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