In a highly unusual move, the Denver coroner's office has listed marijuana intoxication as a contributing factor in a death -- the fatal fall of college student Levy Thamba from a hotel balcony last month.
Thamba consumed a marijuana edible before he died.
A coroner's office spokeswoman says the facts of the case explain why the decision to include information about marijuana was made.
Thamba's Facebook page remains online and features numerous photos of him, including this one....
...and this one: As noted last month by the Powell Tribune, a newspaper in Powell, Wyoming, Thamba, nineteen, was from the Republic of Congo. He began attending Powell-based Northwest College in January after submitting an essay to an international scholarship program. His academic focus was engineering and advanced mathematics.
The Tribune article notes that he quickly made friends at Northwest, and a couple of months later, he joined some of them on a spring-break trip to Denver.
Then, on March 11, tragedy struck. At the time, Thamba was at the Holiday Inn Denver East, at 3333 Quebec Street, a Stapleton area location captured in the following interactive graphic. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View Larger Map."
View Larger Map
Thamba was on an upper floor and fell to his death from a balcony.
What happened? According to Denver Office of the Medical Examiner spokeswoman Michelle Weiss-Samaras, Thamba and at least one additional person consumed a marijuana cookie. Shortly thereafter, she says, "another kid got sick and [Thamba] had this happen."
After Thamba's death, toxicology revealed what a coroner's office release describes as "post-mortem chest cavity blood results (basic, synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts panels)." They showed a Delta-9 THC reading of 7.2 ng/mL and a Delta-9 Carboxy THC of 49 ng/mL.
In the end, the cause of death for Thamba (referred to in documents by his full name, Levi Thamba Pongi) was found to have been by "multiple injuries due to fall from height." However, the determination adds that the fall took place after the consumption of a marijuana cookie and lists "marijuana intoxication" as a "significant condition."
This conclusion makes sense in Weiss-Samaras's view because "that's all we had. He was fine, he was normal, he was an easy-going kid, and then he ate this cookie and went over the balcony. And this was not a kid who was suicidal."
Weiss-Samaras acknowledges that the determination of marijuana's role in Thamba's death was "a little unique." But she believes getting the information out is important, particularly for parents. "We don't know how this will affect you," she allows. "We all react differently."
Our sincere condolences to Thamba's friends, family and loved ones.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Marijuana archive circa November 2013: "Marijuana: How will testing of cannabis products and edibles work?"
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.