By Joe Coscarelli
Tom Petty, the chart-topping singer and songwriter, died in October from an accidental drug overdose as a result of mixing medications that included opioids, the medical examiner-coroner for the county of Los Angeles announced Friday, ending the mystery surrounding his sudden death last year.
The coroner, Jonathan Lucas, said that Petty's system showed traces of the drugs fentanyl, oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam, citalopram, acetyl fentanyl and despropionyl fentanyl.
Barely a week after Petty, 66, had concluded a tour with his band, the Heartbreakers, with two shows at the Hollywood Bowl, representatives said the singer had suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, California, on Oct. 2. But Petty's official death certificate, released about a week later, listed his cause of death as "deferred" pending an autopsy.
In a statement posted to Petty's Facebook page Friday, his wife, Dana, and daughter, Adria, wrote that Petty suffered from "many serious ailments including emphysema, knee problems and most significantly a fractured hip," but that he continued to tour, worsening his conditions. "On the day he died he was informed his hip had graduated to a full on break and it is our feeling that the pain was simply unbearable and was the cause for his over use of medication," the statement said.
They said: "We knew before the report was shared with us that he was prescribed various pain medications for a multitude of issues including Fentanyl patches and we feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident."
"As a family we recognize this report may spark a further discussion on the opioid crisis and we feel that it is a healthy and necessary discussion and we hope in some way this report can save lives," Petty's family said. "Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications."
In 2016, the pop singer Prince was found to have died from an accidental overdose of self-administered fentanyl, a synthetic opiate estimated to be more than 50 times more powerful than heroin. In 2015, federal officials said that incidents and overdoses with fentanyl were "occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States."
Drug deaths involving fentanyl more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to the governmental account of nationwide drug deaths last year.
Prince, his friends and associates said after his death, also suffered from chronic hip pain that was exacerbated by a breakneck touring schedule, and he sought to hide what became a serious opiate addiction.
Lil Peep, the 21-year-old emo rapper who died of an accidental overdose in November, was found to have fentanyl, among other prescription drugs, in his system as well.
Petty, who formed the Heartbreakers in the mid-1970s, was a rock radio stalwart with hits like "I Won't Back Down," "Free Fallin'" and "American Girl." He sold millions of albums and headlined the Super Bowl in 2008.
"On a positive note we now know for certain he went painlessly and beautifully exhausted after doing what he loved the most, for one last time, performing live with his unmatchable rock band for his loyal fans on the biggest tour of his 40 plus year career," Petty's family said in their statement. "He was extremely proud of that achievement in the days before he passed."
Story topics: Tom Petty