9/11 ‘did not kill Donna Summer’
DISCO queen Donna Summer stunned fans when she blamed the lung cancer that eventually killed her on inhaling toxic fumes and dust from the 9/11 terror attacks on New York City.
But a new TV documentary tonight reveals the Hot Stuff and I Feel Love singer almost certainly contracted the disease from smoking… and her own family’s genetic history.
Top US pathologist Dr Michael Hunter also believes her lung cancer may have spread after unearthing photos of her wearing a neck brace just seven months before her death aged 63 in May 2012.
He reveals his findings in a new episode of the series Autopsy: The Last Hours Of… that will air in the US tonight and hit screens in the UK later this year.
Dr Hunter said Summer – who won five Grammys and sold over 140 million records – had become obsessed that she too was a victim of 9/11. “She was staying in a hotel just a few blocks from the World Trade Center in 2011 and there is no doubt this was a terrifying experience. She told friends and family she believed she inhaled smoke and ash from the cloud. There is no doubt that there was asbestos, crushed cement, lead, copper, fibreglass and other dangerous substances in that cloud and after her exposure she became unsettled about air quality and germs, often wiping every surface with disinfectant.”
But Dr Hunter added: “I do not believe she could have been exposed to it long enough to suffer any long-term damage, as has been the case with firefighters and other first responders.”
Instead, he blames an “accumulation of factors” including the singer’s smoking during her early success then, after she gave up the habit, performing in smokefilled clubs. The forensic expert said: “Eighty-five per cent of lung cancers are
‘Fatal cancer wasn’t triggered by debris’
caused by tobacco smoking and, even though she stopped, she was exposed to second-hand smoke for many years.”
Dr Hunter also unearthed the death certificates of Summer’s mother and younger sister, which showed they too died of lung cancer. “So there was,” he added, “a genetic predisposition to this form of cancer.”
It was also revealed that, in the late 70s as her new disco sound propelled her to stardom, Summer suffered deep depression and was prescribed a “cocktail” of drugs to overcome her anxiety.
These, however, along with a non-lifethreatening brain disorder for which she was treated, would not have played a part in her battle to beat lung cancer.
In the 13 months after her diagnosis, Summer became a recluse in her Florida mansion with husband Bruce and daughters Mimi, Brooklyn and Amanda.
According to friends, her weight had plummeted as a result of chemotherapy, her voice was little more than a whisper and she appeared “frail and gaunt”.
“In the end,” said Dr Hunter, “there was nothing further that I can see could possibly have been done to save her.”