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Actor Jeff Conaway's death ruled accidental

Oct 2, 2011, 2:39 p.m.
Actor Jeff Conaway arrives at the international gala premiere of Cirque du Soleil's new show "Zumanity" at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, September 20, 2003. REUTERS/Ethan Miller

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Autopsy results show that Jeff Conaway, the star of "Taxi" and "Grease" who struggled with addiction before his death in May, died from multiple causes including a major internal infection.

In ruling the actor's death accidental in a report released on Friday, the Los Angeles County coroner specified a number of contributing factors, among them septic emboli, aortic valve endocarditis, coronary artery disease, pneumonia and encephalopathy.

The four-month investigation by Coroner Craig Harvey's office did not include a toxicology test because Conaway, 60, had been in the hospital for more than two weeks at the time of his death, and any test for illicit drugs would have come back clean.

Conaway, who had a history of addiction to prescription and nonprescription drugs as well as alcohol, was hospitalized May 10 after being found unconscious in his Los Angeles area home.

At the time, he was also suffering from pneumonia and sepsis and was recovering from back surgery. He remained in a coma until his May 27 death, a day after his family took him off life support.

The actor's problems with addiction were documented in 2008 when he appeared on the TV series "Celebrity Rehab."

Conaway found fame when he starred as the wise-cracking teen Kenickie in the 1978 film musical "Grease," alongside John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. He also became a television regular as struggling actor and cabbie Bobby Wheeler on the hit comedy "Taxi."

During Conaway's final illness, his manager, Phil Brock, told Reuters that the actor had a rough childhood. "When he was 7 years-old, his grandmother let him taste the moonshine she made in her bathtub; when he was 10 and a child actor, his dad took all his money and ran away. Later, Jeff had the world in his hand and would find ways to destroy it," Brock said.

(Reporting by Sheri Linden; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst)

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