Playboy model Katie May died after a visit to the chiropractor left her with a torn artery in her neck, PEOPLE confirms.
The 34-year-old model passed away in February just days after suffering a stroke, her family told PEOPLE at the time. And a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner now says the star died as a result of an injury sustained during a “neck manipulation by chiropractor.”
Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter tells PEOPLE that a chiropractor shifted May’s neck, tearing her left vertebral artery. The tear blocked blood flow to May’s brain and caused the stroke.
Her cause of death is listed as “infarction of brain” and has been ruled an accident, Winter says.
“She had some clotting and went to the hospital where they tried to do some procedures but she passed away,” he tells PEOPLE. “I personally have not seen this before.”
May’s brother, Stephen, confirmed the death to PEOPLE in February, noting that his sister’s ‘catastrophic’ stroke was “caused by a blocked carotid artery.”
“To the best of my family’s knowledge, and we are fairly but not totally certain of this, Katie did not seek medical care prior to Monday evening; if she had, it seems reasonable to conclude, the subsequent days would have unfolded very differently,” Stephen told PEOPLE.
Less than a week before her death, on Jan. 29, May — known as the “Queen of Snapchat” — tweeted that she had hurt her neck during a photo shoot.
“Pinched a nerve in my neck on a Photoshoot and got adjusted this morning. It really hurts! Any home remedy suggestions loves? XOXO,” she wrote.
In a follow-up tweet two days later, May wrote that she planned to return to the chiropractor for the injury.
The woman’s sudden death came as a shock to the family, with Stephen calling May “a star in every sense of the word” and vowing: “I’ll never stop missing her.”
In the wake of May’s death, a GoFundMe page was set up to raise money for her daughter, Mia’s, education.
“Anyone who was lucky enough to know Katie May was truly blessed by her incredible heart, mind and soul,” the page states. “She was an inspiration and a guiding light to so many people in this world.”
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