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Midshipman and former Navy football player Myles James died of accidental fentanyl toxicity, autopsy finds

Midshipman 1st Class Michael Myles James, 22, a former football player at the Naval Academy, died of accidental fentanyl toxicity, according to an autopsy report from the Paulding County Coroner’s Office in Georgia.

James, of Hiram, Georgia, was found unresponsive on June 23 at his home while on leave from the Naval Academy. An autopsy found James had fentanyl in his system and excess fluid in his lungs and died from acute drug toxicity, sometimes referred to as overdose or poisoning deaths. Fentanyl is a prescription opioid used for severe pain. Synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, are the most common drugs involved in drug overdoses in the United States, according to the U.S. Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

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James’ manner of death is certified as an accident, according to the report. His body had no marks or scars indicative of intravenous drug usage, the medical examiner wrote.

The 22-year-old senior was an English major and member of the 9th Company. James was recruited as a defensive end and played linebacker his plebe year, according to a Navy Football roster from 2018. He graduated from McEachern High School. James was born on Sept. 8, 1998, and grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, before moving to Hiram, Georgia, to live with his uncle.

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Friends described James as a skilled photographer and athlete who was funny and had an infectious personality.

Navy Football Coach Ken Niumatalolo said in June that the football team would dedicate the season in honor of James.

“We are heartbroken to hear of Myles’ passing,” Niumatalolo said in the release. “Myles was a great young man and was beloved by his brothers/teammates. He was fun to be around and was a real jokester.”

Elizabeth Wrightson, a spokesperson for the Naval Academy, declined to comment on James’ autopsy report Wednesday.

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“It would be inappropriate for the Naval Academy to comment on a report that hasn’t been finalized or properly received from law enforcement or NCIS,” Wrightson said in an email.

James is survived by his uncle, Linwood Welch Jr. who raised him. He is also survived by his mother Stacy Welch and his two siblings, J.C. Thomas III and Brianna Thomas.

Myles James (right) with Navy wide receiver Marcel Gleaton
Myles James (right) with Navy wide receiver Marcel Gleaton (Courtesy Photo)

James’ death marked the 14th midshipman death in eight years, and the second in a year’s time at the academy, according to previous Capital reporting. Midshipman 1st Class John Johnson died in December while on leave.

Johnson is the first midshipman to receive his posthumous degree under a new policy that allows midshipmen who have met the academic requirements for their degrees and are approved by the academic board.

Midshipman 1st Class David Forney and Midshipman 3rd Class Duke Carrillo died in February 2020. Forney, of Walkersville, Maryland, was found unresponsive in his dormitory room Feb. 20. Carrillo, 21, collapsed while taking a physical readiness test Feb. 8 and was later pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

The midshipman will be the fourth off-duty/recreational death in 2021 for the United States Navy, according to the Naval Safety Center statistics. Nine members of the Navy, including Johnson, died while off-duty in 2020.

Reporters Heather Mongilio and Bill Wagner contributed to this article.

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