Charlbi Dean's cause of death has been determined, nearly four months after her death. The South Africa-born model was on the cusp of stardom thanks to her role in the 2022 Palme d'Or winner Triangle of Sadness and played the assassin Syonide in The CW's Black Lightning. She was 32.
Dean, whose full name was Charlbi Dean Kriek, died from bacterial sepsis, a spokesperson for the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner told PEOPLE Wednesday. The sepsis "was a complication from asplenia (the absence of a spleen) due to remote blunt trauma to her torso," the spokesperson said. Her manner of death was ruled an accident.
The bacterial sepsis was caused after she was infected with a bacteria called Capnocytophaga. This bacteria is typically found in the mouths of people, dogs, and cats and rarely causes infections. Some species of bacteria can cause an infection, which can be fatal to those with weakened immune systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is unclear how Dean was infected, as the medical examiner did not make the actress' complete autopsy public.
Dean was admitted to a New York City hospital on Aug. 29 after feeling ill. She died several hours later that same day. Her brother, Alex Jacobs, told Rolling Stone on Sept. 1 that Dean had her spleen removed around 2009 after a 2008 car crash, which made it difficult for her body to fight off infections. Jacobs also called conspiracy theories that linked her death to COVID vaccines "completely ridiculous and extremely naive."
"This happened literally within the span of a day: getting a headache, going to sleep, waking up her boyfriend [Luke Volker] and saying please take me to the hospital," Jacobs explained of his sister's death. "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 is that there was a viral infection in her lungs."
Dean began her career as a model and actress in South Africa before she made her first Hollywood movie, Death Race 3: Inferno, in 2013. In 2018, she was cast in the recurring role of Syonide in The CW's Black Lightning. She appeared in nine episodes of the comic book series.
Earlier this year, she starred in Ruben Östlund's satire Triangle of Sadness, playing a social media influencer dating a model, played by Harris Dickinson. The movie won the top prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival and is now available to buy or rent on VOD platforms.
"Charlbi's sudden passing is a shock and a tragedy. It is an honor to have gotten to know and work with her," Östlund wrote on Instagram in August. "Charlbi had a care and sensitivity that lifted her colleagues and the entire film crew. The thought that she will not be by our side in the future makes me very sad. At this difficult time, my thoughts go out to her loved ones, her family, and her fiance Luke."