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TV pitchman Billy Mays found dead in Tampa home

TAMPA — Billy Mays, the TV pitchman whose trademark voice helped sell everything from cleaning supplies to baking soda, was found dead this morning by his wife at his Tampa home. No cause of death has been reported and no foul play is suspected, according to Tampa police.

Mays, 50, was pronounced dead at 7:45 a.m. in his gated neighborhood near the Westshore Yacht Club, said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. He told his family he wasn't feeling well Saturday and went to sleep early at 10 p.m., McElroy said. His wife, Deborah Mays, found him unresponsive this morning.

"This is a very tragic case. Billy Mays was in the prime of his life, the prime of his career," McElroy said. "As you can imagine the family is devastated."

Mays is survived by his wife, a three-year-old daughter and a son in his 20s, McElroy said. The Medical Examiner's Office will complete Mays' autopsy by tomorrow afternoon.

"Although Billy lived a public life, we don't anticipate making any public statements over the next couple of days," Deborah Mays said in a statement today. "Our family asks that you respect our privacy during these difficult times."

Mays was a passenger on Saturday of a 737 airplane that had a front tire blow out, said spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan. Mays and other passengers were interviewed by US Airways staff after the hard landing. Responders reported no injuries.

"Tampa Fire (Rescue) reported no injuries. Nobody asked for treatment," Geoghagan said. "Some of the passengers said they had bruises."

Mays told a FOX 13 reporter that he was returning from the filming of an Oxyclean commercial in Philadelphia, according to the station.

"All of a sudden as we hit you know it was just the hardest hit, all the things from the ceiling started dropping," he said. "It hit me on the head, but I got a hard head."

Mays posted to his Twitter soon after the accident, "Just had a close call landing in Tampa. The tires blew out upon landing. Stuck in the plane on the runway. You can always count on US Air."

Mays had no major medical problems, McElroy said, besides a hip replacement. A previous Tweet from Mays mentioned another upcoming hip replacement. "Monday is the big day," he wrote.

The Federal Aviation Authority has yet to provide a comment on the accident or Mays' death, said spokeswoman Laura Brown. US Airways spokesman Jim Olson said the company would not speculate before more information was made available.

"We're very sad about" Mays' passing, Olson said. "We obviously extend our thoughts and prayers to his family."

Mays was one of the stars of "Pitchmen," a Discovery Channel documentary series that focused on Mays' claim to fame: inventions and infomercials. Mays' booming voice and larger-than-life appearance, including a crisp blue dress shirt and finely trimmed beard, became his signature, which he used for humor at spots around Tampa Bay.

Mays' son, Billy, posted to his Twitter account this morning that his "dad didn't wake up this morning.. I'm sure you'll all hear about it. It hasn't yet hit me but it's about to."

"On my way to the house. He's gone," Tweeted Mays, who wrote that he lives in Clearwater. "I'm gonna be strong for him. Thank you for all the thoughts and prayers everyone." An update that followed said he is now with family.

"I'm thankful I got to talk to my dad last night," he Tweeted. "I miss him immensely already. But I feel him with me."

Many of Mays' relatives were in town this weekend for his sister in law's wedding shower, McElroy said. Mays' mother had plans to fly into town today.

Hillsborough County property records show Mays owns another home in Odessa.

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

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TV pitchman Billy Mays found dead in Tampa home 06/28/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 9:53am]
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