Ebullient and ironic. A good son and husband. Architect of grunge. These are some of the words being used to describe Soundgarden frontman, Chris Cornell, in the wake of his unfortunate end. Speculation as to the cause of Cornell’s death came to a close on Friday when the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office revealed the heartbreaking news that the Grammy-winning vocalist did indeed commit suicide.
Fist-bumping fans at the rail, Chris Cornell certainly did not appear to be a man on the verge of taking his own life. In fact, the Soundgarden frontman was by most accounts in fine fettle on the night of May 17. News that the 52-year-old singer was found dead in a hotel room less than an hour after bringing down the house stunned the world. The manner in which Cornell perished serves to compound the confusion. The official coroner’s report says Chris Cornell’s death was of his own doing.
Timeline of Chris Cornell’s final hours
At approximately 9 p.m., Soundgarden opened the show at Detroit’s lavishly historic Fox Theater with a number called “Ugly Truth.” As the applause abated, Cornell expressed grunge-style gratitude to the sold-out house.
“Detroit Rock City! It’s great to be back here, honestly. I love you guys up there on the top shelf, but you got to fu*king stand up and show me something. I have bragged about Detroit crowds for 30 years, so fu*cking stand up and make some noise. I see all of you! There’s no other crowd that never, ever disappoints.”
According to the Police Gaming Unit report obtained by the Detroit News, the band walked offstage at 11:15 p.m. At 11:30, Cornell’s bodyguard, Martin Kirsten, accompanied the singer to room 1136 at the MGM Grand Hotel. Kirsten fiddled with Chris’ computer for a few minutes, gave him two Ativan tablets for anxiety and went to his own room two doors down the hall.
At 11:35, Chris phoned his wife, Vicky Cornell. He told her he “may have taken an extra Ativan or two” and cut the conversation short. Mrs. Cornell, who’d spoken with her husband before the concert, noted a marked change in his demeanor. Concerned for his well-being, Vicky phoned Cornell’s bodyguard at 12:15 and asked him to check on her recovered drug addict husband.
Martin Kirsten had a key to Cornell’s hotel room, but Chris had enabled a security latch. Kirsten used a hall phone to contact hotel security. He said that he needed to get into room 1136. Security told him that since he was not registered in that room, they could not grant access. Kirsten kicked the door in then found the bedroom door was also latched. He kicked that door down, too.
The door to the bathroom was not locked, but Chris Cornell had jammed the bathroom door shut with a carabiner shackle with such force that the top of the door frame was damaged. Kirsten opened the door and found an unresponsive Cornell lying on the floor with blood around his mouth and a red elastic exercise band around his neck. One end of the band was looped through the carabiner.
A medic on staff at the MGM Grand arrived at Room 1136 at 12:56 a.m. She removed the red exercise band from Cornell’s neck and administered CPR to no avail. Paramedics from EMS Unit 42 arrived at 1 a.m. and were also unsuccessful in reviving the Soundgarden singer who’d dazzled a packed house scarcely 90 minutes prior.
Christopher John Cornell was pronounced dead at 1:30 a.m. on May 18, 2017.
Was Ativan to blame?
Shortly after the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Chris Cornell’s death a suicide, attorney Kirk Pasich issued a statement on behalf of the musician’s family:
“The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions.”
Apparently, Chris Cornell had a prescription for the widely prescribed anti-anxiety medication, Ativan. Belonging to the group of drugs known as benzodiazepines, Ativan is used to alleviate nervousness, social phobia, and panic attacks. Common side effects of Ativan include distorted speech, muscle weakness, and drowsiness. Less common but very severe side effects include unfocused thoughts, hallucinations, seizures, and suicidal ideation, advises WebMD.
Soundgarden was slated to headline the Pointfest Festival in Maryland Heights, Missouri this weekend. The event has been canceled.
[Feature Image by Buda Mendes/Getty Images]