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Examiner: 'Pitchmen' star Billy Mays likely died from heart disease

By Christopher Rocchio, 06/29/2009 

Heart disease was the likely cause of Billy Mays' sudden passing on Sunday morning, according to preliminary autopsy results.

The star of numerous infomercials and co-star of Discovery Channel's Pitchmen reality series "had an enlarged heart, a thickening of the wall of the ventricle which takes blood to the heart," said Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vern Adams in a Monday press conference, People reported.

Final results of the autopsy will not be known for eight to 10 weeks.

The 50-year-old Mays, best known for his affiliation with OxiClean, was found unresponsive by his wife on Sunday morning at his Tampa home and was subsequently pronounced dead at 7:45AM.

"Billy would be overwhelmed to see that his life touched so many people in a positive way," Mays' wife Deborah said in a Monday statement obtained by The St. Petersburg Times.

"The support we have received during this difficult time has been tremendous. We thank you for your thoughts and prayers. While it provides some closure to learn that heart disease took Billy from us, it certainly doesn't ease the enormous void that his death has created in our lives. As you can imagine, we are all devastated. We are asking that you respect our privacy as I will not be conducting any media interviews in the near future."

While Mays was taking pain medication after two recent hip surgeries, Adams said there is no evidence that contributed to his death, The Times reported. 

In addition, Adams said Mays was unaware he was suffering from heart disease and was not taking medication for it.

"By definition, sudden death can't be predicted," Adams told The Times. "This was a total surprise."

Mays was a passenger on a Saturday U.S. Airways flight that experienced a rough landing at Tampa International Airport after blowing its front tires, causing Mays to claim he hit his head on items falling from the storage area. 

While there had been speculation a head injury might have contributed to his death, Adams determined there was no evidence of head trauma, according to The Times.

Pitchmen, which premiered on Discovery in April, follows Mays and fellow master marketer Anthony "Sully" Sullivan as they attempt to sell various inventions and products via infomercials in test markets to see if the commercial is ready for the mass public. 

"There are no words to describe how I feel about the passing of my great friend and fellow Pitchman Billy Mays. I have a massive hole in my heart. My thoughts go out to his wife, Deborah, son Billy III, and his beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, his mom and dad and his whole family," Sullivan said in a statement.

"Billy and I have known each other for 15 years. We are the greatest of friends... we were literally joined at the hip for the past six months.  Discovery Channel's Pitchmen was not only a wonderful experience, but also a great opportunity for Billy and I to let people into our world and see what an awesome guy he was in front of the cameras and show our friendship to the world."

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