LOS ANGELES — Singer Whitney Houston appears to have suffered a heart episode before accidentally drowning in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel suite, according to coroner's officials who listed cocaine use as a contributing factor.
The autopsy results were released Thursday after weeks of intense speculation over how the 48-year-old pop star died. The case marks another high-profile Hollywood death connected to drug use, coming less than three years after Michael Jackson died suddenly at his Holmby Hills mansion. Jackson's death resulted from use of a surgical anesthetic for sleep, and his doctor was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Houston had battled drug addiction for years, and the coroner's office found traces of several drugs — including marijuana, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, the muscle relaxant Flexeril as well as Benadryl — in her system. But the coroner's office concluded that those drugs did not contribute to her death.
Cocaine did play a role, though officials would not say how much of the drug was in her system.
Craig Harvey, the coroner's operations chief, said the toxicology findings "suggested chronic usage."
"She could have had a heart attack," rendering her unconscious, and then become submerged in the filled tub, said Ed Winter, the coroner's deputy chief for operations.
A law enforcement source said that no cocaine was found in Houston's room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel but that bottles of various medications were recovered. The autopsy found that the singer suffered from a pre-existing condition known as atherosclerotic heart disease.
Houston's family said they hope the autopsy allows them to move on with their lives.