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David Straz Jr. died with nitroglycerin pills beside him, 911 call indicates

A friend who found him unresponsive said he had a heart condition. A celebration of life is scheduled Saturday.
David Straz, Tampa philanthropist and former mayoral candidate, had heart problems, a friend told a 911 operator Monday. Straz died during a fishing weekend in Homosassa. [TAILYR IRVINE  |  Times]
David Straz, Tampa philanthropist and former mayoral candidate, had heart problems, a friend told a 911 operator Monday. Straz died during a fishing weekend in Homosassa. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]
Published Nov. 21, 2019
Updated Nov. 22, 2019

Tampa philanthropist and former mayoral candidate David Straz Jr., who died Monday in Homosassa, was found lying on the floor next to his bed with nitroglycerin pills beside him, according to a 911 call.

There are no names on the 911 recording obtained by the Tampa Bay Times from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office. The call was made from the address where Straz, 77, was found dead Monday morning, authorities said.

The news comes as Straz’s charitable foundation announced a celebration of life for the retired banker, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in downtown. The event is open to the public, said Jarrod Holbrook, executive director of Straz’s charitable foundation.

The man placing the 911 call said he was a friend of the victim and found him unresponsive when he went to check on him at about 7:30 a.m.

“He did have a mild — I’m not sure if it’s mild or not, but he did have a heart condition,” the caller said.

The men were on a weekend fishing trip, the caller said.

RELATED STORY: David Straz died of natural causes, leaving charity worth $72 million

The call was received at 7:38 a.m. from 11360 W Grybek Drive, a creekfront home on 1½ wooded acres that’s owned by Tampa attorney George Gramling III. Gramling was said by many to be a longtime friend of Straz.

Deputies weren’t dispatched to the scene after emergency medical personnel reported that Straz appeared to have died of natural causes, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The death was not referred for an autopsy to the District 5 Medical Examiner’s Office, according to the office.

Holbrook had no comment Thursday on whether a private autopsy was ordered or on the 911 call. Holbrook had said earlier that Straz died peacefully in his sleep.

RELATED STORY: Tampa philanthropist David Straz Jr. dead at 77

The 911 recording runs 7½ minutes, from the time the call was placed until emergency medical personnel arrived at the Gramling home. The caller said the victim seemed fine when he last saw him at 10:30 p.m. Sunday as they headed for bed.

He found the victim Monday morning next to his bed, lying on his side, with his nitroglycerin pills out on the floor.

“I think he passed away,” the caller told the 911 operator. "It looks like he might have fallen out of bed.”

Nitroglycerin is a muscle relaxer often prescribed for relief from acute chest pain during a heart attack.

The David A. Straz Jr. Foundation, with some $72 million in assets, gave out $1.27 million in grants in 2018 to more than three dozen organizations, chiefly the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and Berkeley Preparatory School.

Times staff writers Jack Evans and Charlie Frago contributed to this report.

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