Luke Bell’s Cause of Death Revealed by Medical Examiner

photo: Laura E. Partain

Like too many of the great country music poets before him, Luke Bell died way too young due to the devastating ailment of the Lovesick Blues.

Unfortunately though, that’s not one of the boxes that medical examiners are given to check off when they turn in their autopsy reports. So for Luke Bell, the story is being told differently. And similar to the announcement of his death, the cause of Luke Bell’s passing has become the story du jour of the day, with hundreds of media outlets and tabloids who never took the time to pay attention to Luke Bell or his music while he was still living being more than happy to take full advantage of the news of his death.

As Luke Bell’s family stated upon his upon his passing on August 29th,

“Unfortunately Luke suffered from the disease of mental illness, which progressed after his father’s death in 2015. Luke was supported through his disease by a community of loving family and friends. Despite this, he was unable to receive the help he needed to ease his pain. Our hearts go out to the millions of people affected by mental illness who, like us, understand the devastating disappointment of a system that consistently fails to provide caring solutions to those who suffer.”

Luke Bell went missing on Saturday, August 20th in Tucson, Arizona. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, this wasn’t the first time Luke had run off, sometimes disappearing for weeks or months at a time. But this time felt different since he’d been doing much better recently. So on August 28th, close friend and fellow musician Matt Kinman publicly put the word out for people to be on the lookout for Luke. He was officially found the next day.

There does happen to be one good reason that the nature of Luke Bell’s death is of public interest beyond morbid curiosity. If foul play had been involved, if he’d been the victim of an assault, etc., then it would be imperative to know this so the perpetrators could be sought and brought to justice. The press also plays a role in this to inform the public, and to hold public officials to account. But that is not what the medical examiner ruled in Luke Bell’s case.

According to the autopsy report performed by Pima County medical examiner Gregory L. Hess, M.D., “In consideration of the known circumstances surrounding this death, the available medical history, and the examination of the remains, the cause of death is ascribed to fentanyl intoxication. The manner of death is an accident.”

Luke Bell was found by a passer by in a shaded area of a parking lot near North Craycroft and East Grant roads in Tucson. His official date of death has been revised to August 26th. An important note from the autopsy report that many aren’t reporting is that when the medical examiner looked at Luke, he had defibrillator patches on his chest. That means that when paramedics arrived, they did try to revive him. Unfortunately, it was to no avail.

Luke Bell isn’t just the latest victim of the Lovesick Blues. He’s one of a countless many who’ve succumbed to the fentanyl epidemic. Often, those who die due to the drug did not know they were taking it. Either they thought they were taking something else, or sometimes, the ingestion is purely accidental, or their first time.Fentanyl addicts are the ones who know how to avoid overdose. Street dealers prey on individuals like Luke Bell who are suffering from mental health issues, and try to get them addicted.

The story of Luke Bell now comes to a close, but the issues he faced in life do not. Mental health issues continue to be on the rise. Fentanyl is the #1 cause of death for Americans age 18 to 45, like Luke Bell. And until the American society is ready to face these issues head on, Luke Bell won’t be the last to face these issues, and it won’t be the last time country music faces them either.

Luke Bell was laid to rest in a private ceremony at the Christ Episcopal Church in Cody, Wyoming on September 9th. He was 32.

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Those who wish to donate in Luke’s memory can donate to the Luke Bell Memorial Fund via the Christ Episcopal Church, or they are being asked to donate to Music Health Alliance.

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