Coroner confirms Lay had blocked arteries
July 19, 2006
Enron founder Ken Lay’s coronary arteries were 75 percent blocked before a fatal heart attack struck July 5 in Old Snowmass.Toxicology tests did not show any drugs in his system that could have caused the heart attack, and the autopsy results released Wednesday list the cause of death as natural.Lay awoke around 1 a.m. feeling ill. He told his wife he wasn’t feeling well and went into the bathroom. The heart attack struck when he was on the toilet. It caused Lay to pitch forward and smack his forehead and mouth on a bathtub.
Lay’s wife, Linda, “heard a ‘thump,’ and when she checked on her husband he was lying unresponsive on the floor following an apparent collapse from the commode,” the postmortem report says. “He had vomited and had brief seizure-like activity.”Lay’s heart had stents in it consistent with those placed in his body when he was alive, said Joe DiSalvo of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.Conspiracy theories that Lay’s death is a hoax intended to spare him from jail are all over the Internet. But DiSalvo said Dr. Robert Kurtzman, who performed the autopsy, consulted with Lay’s doctor, who confirmed the heart stents were implanted when Lay was alive.Lay, convicted of fraud after Enron disintegrated, was suffering from severe heart disease and had had at least two previous heart attacks. He did not complain of chest pains, nausea or shortness of breath before his death, the report says.
“But he had recently been experiencing upper gastrointestinal symptoms for which he was taking medication,” Kurtzman wrote.There were three “partially dissolved capsule halves and one intact partially dissolved pink capsule” in Lay’s stomach. DiSalvo didn’t know what the pills were and referred questions to Kurtzman, who was unavailable Wednesday.The Lays were staying at the Old Snowmass ranch of I.V. Pabst, a family friend, when the heart attack hit. He was pronounced dead at Aspen Valley Hospital at 3:11 a.m. The autopsy was performed at Community Hospital in Grand Junction.At the time of his death Lay was a few months away from sentencing for his role in the Enron scandal. At one point, the Lays owned four properties in Aspen and were well-known philanthropists. They sold their holdings here a few years ago but continued to visit.
Friends said Lay occasionally used the Roaring Fork Valley to escape the epic scandal’s fallout.The autopsy report says all three of his heart’s main arteries had severe blockages, which led to advanced cardiovascular disease.”He was on borrowed time,” DiSalvo said.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org