Summary Background The pneumonia caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is a highly infectious disease, which was occurred in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. As of February 13, 2020, a total of 59883 cases of COVID-19 in China have been confirmed and 1368 patients have died from the disease. However, the clinical characteristics of the dyed patients were still not clearly clarified. This study aims to summarize the clinical characteristics of death cases with COVID-19 and to identify critically ill patients of COVID-19 early and reduce their mortality. Methods The clinical records, laboratory findings and radiologic assessments included chest X-ray or computed tomography were extracted from electronic medical records of 25 died patients with COVID-19 in Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University from Jan 14 to Feb 13, 2020. Two experienced clinicians reviewed and abstracted the data. Findings The mean age of the dead was 71.48 years, the average course of the disease was 10.56 days, all patients eventually died of respiratory failure. All of those who died had underlying diseases, the most common of which was hypertension (16/25, 64%), followed by diabetes (10/25, 40%), heart diseases (8/25, 32%), kidney diseases (5/25, 20%), cerebral infarction (4/25, 16%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, 2/25, 8%), malignant tumors (2/25, 8%) and acute pancreatitis (1/25, 4%). The most common organ damage outside the lungs was the heart, followed by kidney and liver. In the patients' last examination before death, white blood cell and neutrophil counts were elevated in 17 patients (17/25, 68%) and 18 patients (18/25, 72%), lymphocyte counts were decreased in 22 patients (22/25, 88%). Most patients' PCT, CRP and SAA levels were elevated, the percentages were 90.5% (19/21), 85% (19/20) and 100% (21/21) respectively. The levels of the last test of neutrophils (15/16, 93.8%), PCT (11/11, 100%), CRP (11/13, 84.6%), cTnI (8/9, 88.9%), D-Dimer (11/12, 91.6%) and LDH (9/9, 100%) were increased as compared to the first test, while the levels of lymphocytes were decreased (14/16, 87.5%). Interpretation The age and underlying diseases (hypertension, diabetes, etc.) were the most important risk factors for death of COVID-19 pneumonia. Bacterial infections may play an important role in promoting the death of patients. Malnutrition was common to severe patients. Multiple organ dysfunction can be observed, the most common organ damage was lung, followed by heart, kidney and liver. The rising of neutrophils, SAA, PCT, CRP, cTnI, D-Dimer and LDH levels can be used as indicators of disease progression, as well as the decline of lymphocytes counts.