Andy Fletcher, a founding member of Depeche Mode, suddenly died at his home back on May 26. We now know what happened.
According to a statement from the band, Fletch suffered an aortic dissection, something that causes a bleed-out that is difficult (and often impossible) to detect and repair. Basically, the aorta, the main artery leaving the heart, suddenly suffers a tear in its inner layer somewhere along its length. Because of its proximity to the heart, the pressure quickly pushes blood into the tear. The inner and middle layers of the aorta split (dissect, in medical parlance). If the outer layer is breached under that pressure, blood gushes into the chest or abdomen.
A person will feel intense pain in the chest and/or back followed by lightheadedness and unconsciousness as blood is no longer getting to the rest of the body. Death can come very quickly.
Aortic dissections are rare but can happen in men in their 60s and 70s, especially those who are long-time sufferers of high blood pressure. It can also be the ultimate result of genetics, a previous chest injury, or a congenital defect. Unless there’s a family history, it’s unusual to go looking for a weakness in the aorta that could turn fatal. Early diagnosis is possible, but it’s not something you don’t normally go looking for.
Actor John Ritter died this way in the middle of rehearsing on the set of the TV show, 8 Simple Rules. Alan Thicke was hit with chest pains while playing hockey in December 2016. Lux Interior, singer of The Cramps died the same way in 2002. That same year, Gordon Lightfoot was lucky to survive an aortic aneurism.
Andy wouldn’t have know what hit him. Doctors say he would have died without any prolonged suffering. Chalk it up to unfortunate natural causes.