‘Black Lightning’ Star Charlbi Dean’s Cause of Death Revealed

Charlbi Dean in Black Lightning
Richard Ducree / ©The CW / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Charlbi Dean, who played Syonide in The CW‘s superhero series Black Lightning, passed away suddenly in August at 32 years old, and now a coroner’s report has determined her cause of death.

According to People, a spokesperson for the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner confirmed the South African actress died of bacterial sepsis, ruling her death as an accident. The sepsis arose because of a “complication from asplenia (the absence of a spleen) due to “remote blunt trauma to her torso,” the spokesperson told the publication.

Dean was infected with a bacteria known as Capnocytophaga, which is normal bacteria commonly found in the mouths of people, dogs, and cats. Those with weakened immune systems and without spleens are particularly susceptible. Dean had her spleen removed in 2009 after she was involved in a car collision, which also left her with broken ribs and a broken back.

Speaking to Rolling Stone after Dean’s death on August 29, her brother, Alex Jacobs, said that she had begun experiencing “minor” symptoms, and he’d asked her fiance, Luke Volker, to take her to the hospital. She died just a few hours later.

“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 told Rolling Stone. “We still aren’t entirely sure [what happened]. There’s an autopsy being done which we know might take quite a while. But what we have heard [that] there was a viral infection in her lungs.”

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

In addition to her recurring role in Black Lightning, Dean also starred in the Palme d’Or winning 2022 feature film Triangle of Sadness and the South African comedy movie Spud (2010) and its 2013 sequel.