U.K. Entwistle Report Echoes U.S. Findings

John Entwistle died from taking cocaine that stopped his heart from beating, a British coroner ruled today (Dec. 11).

John Entwistle died from taking cocaine that stopped his heart from beating, a British coroner ruled today (Dec. 11). The 57-year-old Who bassist was found dead in his room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas on June 27, a day before the band was to start a three-month nationwide tour. The British inquest was required because Entwistle's body was returned to his home country for burial.

The British verdict generally agreed with the analysis of Clark County (Nev.) Coroner Ron Flud, who attributed the death to a combination of cocaine and heart disease. Flud concluded that the cocaine caused a heart attack by constricting Entwistle's coronary arteries, while British experts thought the drug had fatally interfered with the heart rhythm.

"The amount of cocaine found to be present was not a huge amount but in someone with pre-existing and naturally occurring heart disease it could bring about a fatal stopping in the rhythm of the heart," said Cheltenham and district coroner Lester Maddrell, who presided at Tewkesbury Magistrates Court in southwestern England.

Dr. Jeremy Uff, a consultant at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, said that all three of Entwistle's coronary arteries were "very narrow" with one completely blocked, which was consistent with his history of high cholesterol levels and a pack-a-day cigarette habit. "There was no evidence of a heart attack, just changes in the heart arrhythmia -- an irregularity in the pumping action of the heart," Uff said.

Toxicology tests showed no alcohol but two types of cocaine. Professor Alexander Forrest, of Sheffield University's department of forensic pathology, said Entwistle had used cocaine within four hours of his death.

The amount of the drug would not be lethal for a person with a healthy heart, Forrest said. "It is likely that the use of a small amount of cocaine by someone with compromised coronary arteries can be associated with sudden death."

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