Forensic Files 1.7
"Legionnaires' Disease"

February 2, 2020 by Avery Faeth

Legionnaires' Disease

Air date: 11/07/1996
Chronology: season 1, episode 7

Victim: 34 legionnaires including Ray Brennan || Frank Aveni || James Dolan || John Ralph || Andrew Cormac (d) Charlie Davis (s)

Date of death: July 26, 1976 || July 30, 1976 || August 1, 1976 || August 1, 1976

Cause of death: Legionella pneumophila

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Perpetrator: Bacteria build-up in cooling towers

The crime: Stagnant water in a cooling tower atop the Bellevue Stratford Hotel produced a bacteria that became airborne when the tower's fans were used. The airborne bacteria drifted down the front of the hotel, onto the sidewalk and in through windows and the lobby intake fan. Victims appeared to have a respiratory illness akin to pneumonia before dying. Common factors in those affected were a nearness to the hotel, age (over 50), smoking, and underlying illnesses.

Techniques: CDC questionnaires and biological samples to eliminate certain diseases and find connections

Professionals: Dr. David Fraser, MD (C.D.C. investigator), Dr. Joseph McDade (C.D.C. microbiologist), Dr. Lewis Polk (Philadelphia health commissioner), Dr. William Sunderman (toxicologist), Dr. Leonard Bachman (state health secretary), Peter Thomas (narrator)