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 the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office.
“You have a heart condition exacerbated by cocaine use which, combined, resulted in her drowning,” spokesman Craig Harvey told AFP, adding: “We feel that there was a heart event, complicated by cocaine use,” before she drowned.
Ed Winter, deputy chief of coroner investigations, was more explicit when asked by the LA Times to explain the drowning. “She may have had a heart attack,” he told the newspaper.
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.
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.
Speculation had raged since her death that the singer may have succumbed to a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs and alcohol.
Indeed, other drugs were found in her system, but which did not contribute to her death, the coroner’s office said. They included marijuana, alprazolam (Xanax), cyclobenzaprine (Flexiril) and Diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
The TMZ celebrity news website quoted a coroner’s office official as saying Houston used cocaine “immediately prior to her collapse” — but investigators who arrived on the scene found no traces of cocaine or any other illegal drug.
That was because “an individual” removed all traces of cocaine from the room before authorities arrived, it said, adding that the person was the same one who supplied the drug to Houston.
The coroner’s office spokesman said chronic use of cocaine was likely a key factor in Houston’s death.
“Chances are, had she not had the pre-existing heart disease and cocaine use she may not have drowned,” he said. “The cocaine causes the heart to beat faster, the arteries to constrict, which could… set you up for a cardiac event.”
Houston’s 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.
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 a published on March 7.