In this case report we describe a 67-year-old male, admitted to the ICU with pneumonia who unexpectedly developed a fatal coma due to hyperammonaemia. At postmortem the diagnosis late-onset ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency was made. The non-specific clinical presentation, the rapid deterioration and incidentally the fatal outcome all underline the importance of recognition and knowledge of this genetic disorder. Several measures to treat and prevent potentially fatal episodes of hyperammonaemia are available, if only the disorder is recognised in time. In retrospect, several clues to the diagnosis were available in this fatal case, such as voluntary protein avoidance, as well as several male family members who died at a young age of an unknown cause. After his death, two daughters were discovered to be carriers of an OTC gene mutation, as well as his infant grandson. We emphasise the importance of obtaining ammonia levels in all patients with unexplained coma, seizures or cerebral oedema, irrespective of their age, especially in patients in the ICU or in an otherwise catabolic state.