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Ted Koppel's Son Found Dead in Washington Heights Apartment

By DNAinfo Staff on June 1, 2010 5:42pm  | Updated on June 2, 2010 6:13am

By Jill Colvin and Olivia Scheck

DNAinfo Staff

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The son of former "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel was found dead Monday morning in a Washington Heights apartment, after an apparent day of heavy drinking with a stranger.

Andrew Koppel, 40, who worked as an attorney for the Housing Authority, was brought to the apartment at West 180th Street and Audubon Avenue Sunday to sober up by a 32-year-old waiter, Russell Wimberly, whom Koppel met earlier in the day at Smith's Bar & Restaurant at West 44th Street and Ninth Avenue.

“He was really messed up,” said Belinda Caban, 53, who lives at the apartment where Wimberly brought Koppel. “I just thought he was high out of his mind, drunk out of his mind.”

The son of legendary newsman Ted Koppel died during Memorial Day weekend in a Washington Heights apartment.
The son of legendary newsman Ted Koppel died during Memorial Day weekend in a Washington Heights apartment.
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Getty/Brendan Hoffman

The three first sat down in the living room of Caban's cluttered and sparsely furnished apartment. It was clear Koppel wasn't well.

“He was sitting in the chair flopping," she told DNAinfo. "I told him to go lie down in my room."

Friends Caban and Wimberly were then joined by a third friend and spent a few hours catching up, drinking beers and watching TV, she said.

Occasionally they would hear what they thought was snoring coming from the bedroom, she said. Wimberly went to check up on him several times, and he assured her he felt Koppel's pulse.

But eventually Caban started to panic.

“He slept too long. Get him up!” she remembers telling the group.

When they went inside the bedroom, she said, Koppel looked pale and felt cold. The bed was wet.

"They both went to pick him up and he just flopped,” she said. “I realized there was something wrong with him. I said call 911.”

Caban said she was deeply disturbed by what had happened in her apartment and couldn't sleep all day Monday because of the shock. She's been sleeping on the couch after throwing her mattress away because of the smell.

“It hurt me to know that he died in my house,” she said. “I wish I would have known that something was really wrong with him.”

Koppel lived with his girlfriend and baby daughter in Rockaway Park, Queens, and he was declared dead about 1:30 a.m.

Wimberly told the New York Post that Koppel struck up a conversation with him at Smith's about noon on Sunday.

"He had a straw hat on, and I had one on, and he said, 'Nice hat, man,'" Wimberly told the paper. "We got to talking, and he started buying me drinks."

The two continued to bar hop into the night, with Koppel sipping from bottles of whiskey as they traveled, the Post reported.

About 11 p.m. they took a taxi to Caban's home, according to the paper.

"I didn't understand anything [Koppel] said. We took him to the bedroom and laid him down to rest," Caban told the Post.

But within a couple of hours, Caban and Wimberly realized that Koppel was no longer breathing; he had urinated and defecated in the bed, and they decided to call the police, according to the paper.

Ted Koppel and his wife Grace Anne Dorney Koppel released a statement on Tuesday saying, "Our son, Andrew, was a brilliant, caring man, whose loss we will mourn for the rest of our lives."

An autopsy was performed Monday, but more tests were needed to determine a cause of death, the city's medical examiner's office said, the Associated Press reported.

Results from additional toxicology and tissue tests could take weeks, the AP said.

Koppel's drinking had gotten him into trouble before — first, when he was 20 years old, during a drunken fender bender and again three years later when he was convicted of punching out a senatorial aide during a booze-fueled fisticuffs, according to the Post.