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Coroner rules Bonham death an accident

WINDSOR, England -- John 'Bonzo' Bonham, the burly drummer of the famous Led Zepplin rock group, died from choking on his own vomit after drinking 40 shots of vodka in a 12-hour booze spree, a coroner ruled Tuesday.

Coroner Robert Wilson said the death of Bonham, whose body was found Sept. 25 in the $2 million Windsor home of the group's lead guitarist, Jimmy Page, was an accident.

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Page, who for unexplained reasons was too weak to stand in the witness box during the inquest, testified that Bonham was already 'tipsy' when he arrived at the estate for rehearsals for an American tour that was to start Oct. 16.

Wilson found that Bonham had consumed 40 shots _ more than a quart _ of vodka during a 12-hour drinking spree and choked on his own vomit while sleeping.

The inquest was told that Bonham was so drunk before his death that he had to be carried to a bedroom at the estate, overlooking Queen Elizabeth's castle, some 20 miles west of London.

The cause of death was similar to that of rock star Jimi Hendrix, who suffocated in London after taking an overdose of heroin in September, 1970.

The inquest convened against a background of speculation that Bonham's death _ the latest in a series of tragedies involving the group _ meant the end of Led Zepplin, which the authoritative trade weekly New Musical Express called 'the greatest band in the world' today.

Manager Peter Grant has not been available for comment. But sources in the music business say they understand that the group's forthcoming U.S. tour will be canceled. They said vocalist Robert Plant also may leave the group to go solo.

The coroner's verdict may _ or may not _ put to rest speculation by the 'heavy metal' group's fans that Bonham's death was somehow connected to black magic, which Page reportedly dabbles in.

The black magic theme became popular among the group's fans, both because of Page's fascination with the occult and because of a string of tragedies haunting the group.

Plant's son died of a rare virus in 1977, forcing cancellation of an American tour. The same year Bonham, who developed a reputation for smashing up hotel rooms, suffered three broken ribs in a car crash.

Then a former record producer for the group died and a photographer was found dead in another Page home in Sussex, allegedly from a mixture of drugs and alcohol.

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