TV Pitchman Billy Mays Likely Had Heart Attack: ME

Infomercial icon had no sign of trauma to the head

By Xana O'Neill
|  Thursday, Aug 20, 2009  |  Updated 6:29 AM CDT
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2009 in Memoriam

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The 50-year-old pitchman best known for selling OxiClean and OrangeGlo was pronounced dead after his wife found him in their Florida home on Sunday morning.

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TV pitchman Billy Mays likely died of a heart attack and showed no signs of head trauma, according to a Florida medical examiner.

The fast-talking, high-energy infomerical spokesman who was found dead at his home in Tampa on Sunday suffered from hypertensive heart disease but more testing will be needed to determine his exact cause of death, Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vernard Adams said today. 

Mays "had an enlarged heart, a thickening of the all of the ventricle which takes blood to the heart," Adams said.

The bearded, khaki-wearing salesman, best known for hawking OxiClean and OrangeGlo, was pronounced dead after his wife found him in their Florida home at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. There were no signs of a break-in and foul play is not suspected, cops said.

"Although Billy lived a public life, we don't anticipate making any public statements over the next couple of days," wife Deborah Mays said in a statement. "Our family asks that you respect our privacy during these difficult times."

Mays had returned to Tampa from Philadelphia on Saturday where he shot a new OxiClean commercial. He was on board a U.S. Airways Flight 1241 that suffered a blown front tire upon landing, which caused passengers several minor injuries. Officials have not said whether Mays' death was related to the accident, Fox News reported.

"All of a sudden as we hit you know if was just the hardest hit, all the things from the ceiling started dropping. It hit me on the head, but I got a hard head," he told a Fox affiliate in Tampa.

Mays had been hawking products on television for more than two decades. The Pennsylvania-born salesman began his career selling washing machines on the boardwalk in Atlantic City as a high school student, USA Today reported.

He began pitching products at trade shows, conventions and state fairs before he promoted goods on the Home Shopping Network years later.

Mays was praised for his showmanship and went on to do promotions for college bowl games on ESPN and ABC.

"I've done well for myself," Mays recently told USA Today. "The infomercial business has been good to me."

He also appeared on the Discovery Channel reality TV show "Pitchmen" with Anthony Sullivan.

"Everyone that knows him was aware of his larger-than-life personality, generosity and warmth," Discovery Channel spokesperson Elizabeth Hillman said in a statement. "Billy was a pioneer in his field and helped many people fulfill their dreams. He will be greatly missed as a loyal and compassionate friend."

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