Charlbi Dean's Cause Of Death Confirmed By NYC Medical Examiner

Fatima Araos
Closeup of Charlbi Dean with long hair and bangs
Shutterstock | 2914948

Charlbi Dean died of bacterial sepsis, a New York City medical examiner determined.

The South African actress and model, who starred in this year’s Cannes Palme d'Or winner Triangle of Sadness, died suddenly at age 32 after falling ill in August. The illness wasn’t disclosed at the time, but a spokesperson for the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner confirmed to People this week that the cause of death was bacterial sepsis due to a rare infection. Read the details below.

'Complication From Asplenia'

According to the spokesperson, Dean’s sepsis “was a complication from asplenia” or the absence of a spleen caused by “remote blunt trauma to her torso.” The actress was in a car accident around 2009, which resulted in doctors removing her spleen.

Without a spleen, she was particularly vulnerable to infections. She contracted a bacteria called Capnocytophaga, some species of which are found in the mouths of humans, dogs, and cats. That, in turn, led to her sepsis. It is not known, though, how she got the rare infection as the medical examiner has not disclosed the full autopsy report yet.

Details From Dean's Brother

Following her death on August 29, the Cape Town native’s brother, Alex Jacobs, spoke to Rolling Stone about the incident. He said that her illness began with “minor” symptoms but a short while later, she asked her fiancé, Luke Volker, to bring her to the emergency room.

“This happened literally within the span of a day: getting a headache, going to sleep, waking up her boyfriend and saying please take me to the hospital,” Jacobs explained (via People).

Her 2009 Accident

Charlbi Dean
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Jacobs also recalled her sister’s 2009 accident, which he described as “very, very bad.” She suffered a broken back and ribs, aside from having her spleen removed.

“[The spleen is] involved in fighting off infections, and that could have had something to do with what happened,” he said. “Her spleen not being there just added on to the reason why she perhaps couldn't fight it off.”

Messages From Her Director And Fiancé

Shortly after her death, Dean’s Triangle of Sadness director, Ruben Östlund, paid tribute to her in an Instagram post. He expressed his shock at the “tragedy” and wrote about her “care and sensitivity that lifted her colleagues and the entire film crew.”

Volker, her fiancé, also shared a video on his Instagram page in which he thanked all those who sent messages of love and sympathy.