Prince's Cousin Reflects On Late Singer's Overdose Prior To His Death

By Desiree Bowie 11/18/19

“Somebody should be held accountable and I hope to make sure that happens someday.”


A week before his death, Prince reportedly overdosed on a plane ride and was subsequently revived with the help of Narcan. The icon's death would go on to overshadow the near-fatal overdose that preceded it, but now his cousin Charles Smith is discussing the incident on a recent episode of E! True Hollywood Stories that focuses on the Purple Rain singer.

On April 15, 2016, the singer reportedly stopped breathing mid-flight, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois, so that first responders could revive him. Shortly after the singer was revived, he returned home and it was business as usual. 

"Somebody was hiding something," Smith said in the episode. "Prince is back to being Prince again and they take him back home. He should've never left that hospital."

Six days later, the 57-year-old musician was found dead of a suspected overdose. A toxicology report revealed that he had exceedingly high concentrations of fentanyl in his blood. 

In 2018, after a two-year investigation, Carver County officials announced that no one would be held accountable for Prince's overdose death. 

Carver County Attorney Mark Metz said that Prince had taken counterfeit Vicodin which was laced with fentanyl. The singer reportedly had no idea the pills were counterfeit. Investigators were unable to find "sufficient evidence" that someone had provided him with the fake pills

Smith expressed disdain for the lack of accountability for the late singer's death.

Who's Accountable For His Death?

“I knew this was going to be the result,” Smith said in response to the announcement. “Somebody should be held accountable and I hope to make sure that happens someday.”

A federal lawsuit was brought against Dr. Michael T. Schulenberg, who had treated the singer twice in the week after his near-fatal overdose. The doctor stood accused of prescribing Percocet to Prince's bodyguard though the Percocet was actually for the singer.

Meanwhile the singer's family filed suit against Schulenberg, Walgreens (who filled the prescription) and other individuals from Trinity Medical Center who they claimed “failed to appropriately evaluate, diagnose, treat and counsel Prince for his recognisable opioid addiction.”

“We understand this situation has been difficult on everyone close to Mr. Nelson and his fans across the globe,” a lawyer representing Schulenberg said in 2018. “Be that as it may, Dr. Schulenberg stands behind the care that Mr. Nelson received. We intend to defend this case.”

Schulenberg ultimately wound up settling for $30,000 with the feds. The wrongful death lawsuit is ongoing. 

Moving Forward

Smith has become an activist in the wake of his cousin's death. During a January 2019 appearance at the third annual Opioid Awareness Day in St. Paul, Minnesota, Smith spoke about the opioid epidemic's far reach. 

“We’re losing legends, we’re losing potential legends and that’s a shame,” Smith said, according to The Star Tribune. “Prince had everything, everything you can ever want, and it touched him.”

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Desiree Bowie is a writer and movie lover from Los Angeles, California. Follow her on Twitter @dangerbowie