LOS ANGELES — Grammy-winning singer Whitney Houston died from accidental drowning after taking cocaine which exacerbated her heart disease, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office said Thursday.
Houston, who died at age 48 in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel room last month, likely had some kind of heart attack which caused her to slip under the water, said spokesman Craig Harvey.
“You have a heart condition exacerbated by cocaine use which, combined, resulted in her drowning,” he told AFP, adding: “We feel that there was a heart event, complicated by cocaine use,” before she drowned.
She had cocaine in her body when she died, said a coroner’s office statement, which described her death as an “accident,” and the cause as “drowning” and “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.”
“How injury occurred: found submerged in bathtub filled with water; cocaine intake,” it said, adding: “No trauma or foul play is suspected,” and that a final coroner’s report will be available for release within two weeks.
Other drugs found in her system but which did not contribute to her death included marijuana, alprazolam (Xanax), cyclobenzaprine (Flexiril) and Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), it said.
Speculation had raged since her death that the singer may have succumbed to a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs and alcohol.
Houston was found dead on February 11, a day before the music industry’s biggest awards show, and hours ahead of a glittering pre-Grammy party in the Beverly Hilton hotel where she died.
Her shock death cast a pall over the annual gathering at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, with several tributes to the singer — and a public prayer — added to the show at the last minute.
The singer of hits including “I Will Always Love You” sold over 170 million records during a nearly three-decade career, but fought a long battle against substance abuse while trying to keep her performing talent alive.
Houston was buried a week after her death in New Jersey after an emotional farewell ceremony in the Newark baptist church where she sang as a child, which was watched worldwide.
Earlier this month it emerged that Houston had left all of her assets to her daughter Bobbi Kristina, born from her troubled marriage to singer Bobby Brown who gets nothing.
Bobbi Kristina, who is currently 19, will inherit the proceeds from all of the late singer’s money, furniture, clothing, personal effects, jewelry, and cars, according to the will published on March 7.
A few days later Bobbi Kristina said she plans to follow her mother into show business, while the drug-troubled star’s sister-in-law admitted her untimely death could have been predicted.
“I have to carry on the legacy … We’re gonna do the singing thing. Some acting, some dancing,” she told talk show host Oprah Winfrey, adding: “It’s a lot of pressure, but she prepared me for it.”
The late star’s sister-in-law, Patricia Houston, said it had been possible to forecast that drugs would claim the singer’s life. “The handwriting was kind of on the wall. I would be kidding myself to say otherwise.”