Basalt death linked to cocaine |

Basalt death linked to cocaine

Donald Turner died Feb. 10 after his heart stopped as a result of cocaine use, according to the Pitkin County coroner.

For the second time in three weeks cocaine has been ruled a contributing factor in the death of a Roaring Fork Valley resident.Donald Turner died on Feb. 10 after his heart stopped as a result of cocaine use, according to Pitkin County Coroner Steve Ayers. The official cause was listed as “cardiac arrhythmia secondary to cocaine toxicity.”Dr. Gordon Gerson, a cardiologist at Aspen Valley Hospital, said the drug can stimulate an irregular heart rhythm and ultimately cause it to stop. Turner was found dead in bed at his Elk Run subdivision home by Basalt police officers. They were asked by a relative to check on Turner’s welfare.

Police Chief Keith Ikeda said “it was apparent there was cocaine use” at the scene, but the coroner’s report was needed to determine if that was the cause. Turner, 46, had last been seen Tuesday night, Feb. 8, by neighbors.Turner lived in the house alone. He was the owner and operator of a painting company. His former wife and a 7-year-old son live elsewhere in the valley.”This is tragic because it’s a needless death,” Ikeda said. “Drugs and alcohol take away life. We’re seeing that up and down the valley.”Sarah McLennan of Aspen died Jan. 28 from complications tied to alcohol poisoning and cocaine use, according to Ayers. She was found in full cardiac arrest on Jan. 26 and taken off life support at Aspen Valley Hospital two days later.

Gerson said cocaine-related fatalities can occur because of long-term damaging effects on the heart or from a lightning-quick heart attack. Cocaine can cause the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart to spasm and shut off blood, causing a heart attack, Gerson said. Cocaine can also cause arrhythmia or an irregular heart beat that can result in the heart stopping.”The thing with cocaine – as Len Bias found out – is it can kill you the first time you use it,” Gerson said. Bias was a University of Maryland basketball star who died after what was believed to be his first use of cocaine in June 1986. He had just signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the Boston Celtics. His death was widely reported and played a role in Congress’ adoption of new, strict drug laws.”All in all, it’s a bad thing for the heart,” Gerson said of cocaine.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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