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Tom Petty died of accidental drug overdose, family says

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2008

    Tom Petty, of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, performed during halftime of Super Bowl XLII between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 3, 2008. Petty’s family said today his death last year was due to an accidental drug overdose.

NEW YORK >> Tom Petty died last year because of an accidental drug overdose that his family said occurred on the same day he found out his hip was broken after performing dozens of shows with a less serious injury.

His wife and daughter released the results of Petty’s autopsy via a statement on his Facebook and web pages tonight. Dana and Adria Petty say they got the results from the coroner’s office earlier in the day that the overdose was caused due to a variety of medications.

The coroner’s findings showed Petty had a mix of prescription painkillers, sedatives and an antidepressant. Among the medications found in his system were fentanyl and oxycodone. An accidental overdose of fentanyl was also determined to have killed Prince in April 2016.

Petty suffered from emphysema, a fractured hip and knee problems that caused him pain, the family said, but he was still committed to touring.

He had just wrapped up a tour a few days before he died in October at age 66.

“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,” his family’s statement said, adding that he performed more than 50 concerts with a fractured hip.

The family said Petty had been prescribed various pain medications for his multitude of issues, including fentanyl patches, and “we feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident.”

They added: “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. Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications.”

Painkillers and sedatives are among the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S., but both drug types slow users’ heart rate and breathing. The Food and Drug Administration has warned against mixing them because the combination can lead to breathing problems, coma and death.

Government figures released in December showed that for the first time, the powerful painkiller fentanyl and its close opioid cousins played a bigger role in the deaths than any other legal or illegal drug, surpassing prescription pain pills and heroin.

Petty was a rock superstar with the persona of an everyman who drew upon the Byrds, Beatles and other bands he worshipped as a boy in Gainesville, Florida. He produced classics that include “Free Fallin’,” ”Refugee” and “American Girl.” He and his longtime band the Heartbreakers had recently completed a 40th-anniversary tour, one he hinted would be their last.

The shaggy-haired blond rose to success in the 1970s and went on to sell more than 80 million records. He was loved for his melodic hard rock, nasally vocals and down-to-earth style. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted Petty and the Heartbreakers in 2002, praised them as “durable, resourceful, hard-working, likable and unpretentious.”

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