clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

GERULAITIS' BLOOD SATURATED WITH DEADLY GAS

Former tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis was killed when a broken propane heater filled the cottage where he was staying with so much carbon monoxide that investigators had to retreat for gas masks, authorities said Tuesday.

Gerulaitis, 40, was found dead Sunday afternoon. Tests showed "between 72 and 77 percent of his blood was saturated with carbon monoxide - extremely, extremely high levels," said Norma Dill, assistant to the chief medical examiner.Police said the fumes seeped into the heating and air conditioning system of the cottage, which sits near the beach on an estate in this affluent Long Island community. Detective Sgt. David Betts said it was not clear if Gerulaitis was asleep when fumes swept through the house or how long he had been dead.

Gerulaitis was a frequent guest at the shingle-and-stone cottage on the 4.7-acre, $5.5 million estate of developer Martin Raynes.

Raynes last saw Gerulaitis around 5 p.m. Saturday and the two agreed to have dinner. When Gerulaitis failed to appear that evening, Raynes assumed he was sleeping.

For the 24 hours after his body was found, the tennis world buzzed with speculation - unfounded, it turned out - that Gerulaitis' death was linked to drugs.

Gerulaitis acknowledged using cocaine during the late 1970s and '80s, and said that his appetite for drugs and discos undercut a career that was based on quickness and endurance.

His funeral is scheduled for Thursday at St. Dominic's Roman Catholic Church in Oyster Bay.