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Ski Demski's Death A Suicide, Coroner Report Says

Levels of RX painkiller found above therapeutic levels

Ski 6(March 19, 2002) -- The death of LB's record setting, flag waving icon, Thomas "Ski" Demski, has been ruled a suicide by the LA County Coroner's office.

Mr. Demski, 72, was found dead in his residence on January 19 and the case has now been closed. Toxicological tests found a level of Tramadol [Ultran], a painkiller, in his system beyond therapeutic levels, the Coroner's office told

The Coroner's Investigator's Narrative states in pertinent part:

...[On January 18, 2002] an unknown person called the Police Department to check on the decedent...While on scene the decedent walked up to them and said something to the effect of "I'm ready to check out" and asked them to take him to the Seal Beach Medical Group, which they did. On [January 19] 0830 hours, [a woman identified as a friend]...entered the residence to feed the many exotic birds the decedent owns, and found him unresponsive on the floor. Long Beach Fire Department, Engine #2, responded to the scene and [a paramedic] pronounced death at 0841 hours. There was a prescription bottle next to the body that had been filled the previous day for 180 pills that is now empty. Family and friends report a recent bout of depression and a fall from sobriety...

...There is an empty bottle of Ultran (50 mg) that was filled on 1-18-02 for 180 pills...No suicide note or evidence of alcohol were found in the residence...

A few weeks earlier, Mr. Demski received warm messages after area media (including the LA Times, Beachcomber, andPT) reported he was in failing health.

Ski 5Mr. Demski allowed us to include his email address in our coverage and was pleased by email he received. [Thank you, readers.]

When we visited him on January 5, Mr. Demski told us he was planning additional flag waving appearances, including a possible journey to the Salt Lake City Olympics.

Ski 3In 1981, a City Hall staffer claimed Demski needed a permit because his giant flag pole included shiny lettering saying "The Pole," making it a sign (which requires a permit). Demski refused and stared City Hall down. City Hall could have prosecuted him for a misdemeanor, potentially carrying a $500 fine and six months in jail, but the brouhaha ended when the City Council changed the law to exempt flag poles from the city's sign ordinance.

In 1988, LB City Hall did prosecute Mr. Demski, charging he had committed a crime by refusing to stop flying his giant flag after 10 p.m. City Hall acted after roughly two dozen neighbors complained over the flag's flapping noise; City Hall claimed the resulting decibels violated LB's noise ordinance and ordered Demski to lower the flag at night or face prosecution.

The Press-Telegram editorialized against Demski: "The order is reasonable. It simply requires Demski to follow normal protocol in handling the American flag -- and to demonstrate some courtesy toward his neighbors."

Mr. Demski refused to accept City Hall's decree and was charged with seven misdemeanor counts that could have brought a maximum of three and a half years in jail and $7,875 in fines. The case made national news. A judge eventually threw out City Hall's complaint against Demski.

Mr. Demski reacted by running for Mayor. Three times. In one Mayoral candidate debate, Demski appeared with a squawking pet parrot on his shoulder.

Ski 9

Despite his health, Mr. Demski travelled to New York and "Ground Zero" at the former World Trade Center. He was proud that one of his flags flew from a crane helping in the recovery effort.

Just days before his death, LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill had listed Mr. Demski as among her most enduring memories of 2001:

"The Ski Demskis of the city, with his flag and his passionate patriotism," as her voice trailed off. Applause from LB's establishment filled the room.

And in what must be one of the more unique medical descriptions in the annals of the L.A. County Coroner's office, its investigator's narrative indicates the body "appears to be that of an adult, Caucasian, male with numerous colorful tattoos all over the body. Most of which are of the American flag..."

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