Saturday, June 06, 2009

Thai coroner seeks cause of "Kung Fu" actor's death

Thai coroners completed an autopsy on the body of actor David Carradine Friday, a day after the star of 1970s-era U.S. television show "Kung Fu" was found naked and hanging dead in his luxury hotel room.

Coroners at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn hospital said they had not yet determined how the 72-year-old actor died and were waiting for the results of a toxicology screen. Police said it could take several weeks before the reason was known.

"We are now running tests and then we will decide the cause of death," the hospital's chief coroner, Nantana Sirisap, told Reuters. "This certainly was not a natural cause of death."

A maid found Carradine hanging naked by a rope in the closet of his hotel suite at the plush Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel Thursday, police said.

Initial reports indicated a possible suicide, but his family representatives in Los Angeles have repeatedly said the actor was not suicidal.

Representatives for Carradine also declined to comment on media reports that the death was related to autoerotic asphyxiation, which involves intentionally cutting off oxygen supply for strong sexual arousal. And a former lawyer for Carradine said she suspected foul play.

But investigators in Bangkok said there was no indication other people had been in the room where Carradine was staying while shooting the movie "Stretch." Police and forensics teams were still gathering evidence as of Friday.

"We are currently interviewing witnesses, film crew, hotel staff and the last person who saw David alive," Lumpini police chief Colonel Somprasong Yentuam told Reuters.

"So far, no one saw anyone enter David's room around the estimated time of death."


A hotel employee, who gave her name as Oi, said Carradine was in good spirits in the final few hours he was seen alive.

"He was in the hotel lobby, relaxing and playing the piano -- he looked very happy," she told Reuters television.

Tiffany Smith of Carradine's Los Angeles-based talent manager Binder & Assoc. repeated assertions that the actor's family believes Carradine could not have committed suicide.

"It's not where he is in his life right now, he was completely full of life, extremely happy to be going to Bangkok and doing this film," she said.

Smith declined comment on media reports about the possibility of an accidental death by autoerotic asphyxiation, pending the police report. Autoerotic asphyxiation involves intentionally cutting off oxygen supply for strong sexual arousal.

Carradine was married five times and had two daughters from previous marriages.

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