While he apparently had been drinking alcohol on the night he drowned in the
Mississippi River, alternative rocker Jeff Buckley was not legally drunk,
according to the medical examiner who performed the toxicology report. "The
official cause of death is accidental drowning," said Tammy Ruth, office manager
for the Shelby County Medical Examiner.
With this information released Wednesday, Memphis police say they are closing
their case on the death of 30-year-old singer/songwriter. "We're not
investigating anything" further, said Lt. Richard True. Buckley's file will be
formally closed when a full autopsy is delivered in three weeks.
The toxicology report for Buckley, who died on May 29, showed that Buckley was
neither high on drugs nor under the influence of alcohol when he jumped into the
Mississippi fully clothed. Ruth told ATN that Buckley's drug screen was negative,
while his blood alcohol level was .04. Legal intoxication begins at a level of
The son of famed folk music troubadour Tim Buckley, who died tragically young
from a heroin overdose in 1975, Jeff gained instant critical acclaim for his
stunning 1994 debut, Grace. He was in Memphis preparing for that album's
much-anticipated follow up.
Police said that Buckley andfriend Keith Foti had been listening to music on the
banks of the river on the night of his disappearance.
Buckley "just stood up, and they were singing," explained True. "He walked out
into the water and was floating around on his back. He was backpeddling and
singing. And then there was a wake from a passing boat, and his friend turned
around to move the radio to keep the water from getting on it. He turned back
around and [Buckley] was gone." Police presume that the undertow created by the
boat swept Buckley away from the bank and underwater, causing him to drown.
True noted that the singer was wearing heavy engineer boots when he went wading.
"Water getting in those could make it difficult to swim," said True.
Foti called authoritiesto report Buckley missing sometime after 10 p.m. that
night. Hampered by rain and poor weather, police then searched for days for the
singer's body, using boats, horse and foot patrols, helicopters and scuba divers.
His body was discovered on June 4 by a passenger on a Mississippi cruise vessel.
The oft-delayed recording of Buckley's sophomore album, tentatively titled My
Sweetheart the Drunk, had begun at Memphis's famed Easely Studios just prior to
his drowning. The album was originally slated to be produced by former Television
leader Tom Verlaine, who later left the project when Buckley postponed the
sessions to work on new material to augment the dozen-plus songs he'd already
prepared. The album was scheduled for an early 1998 release.