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The state Department of Human Services has opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of a former Steelers player who was living at a McKeesport personal care home.
Samuel R. "The Tight Man" Davis, 75, died Tuesday night of complications related to heart disease, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said Wednesday. The office ruled that his death was of natural causes.
Davis was found in the basement of New Life Personal Care Home on Versailles Avenue about 14 hours after he was reported missing to McKeesport police and was pronounced dead a short time later at the hospital.
Davis, who was legally blind, was reportedly suffering from dementia related to a severe injury he suffered in 1991, after retiring from professional football.
Personal care homes in Pennsylvania are licensed by the Department of Human Services.
Erin James, a spokesperson for the agency, said DHS "thoroughly investigates all serious injuries" at licensed personal care homes, and "when appropriate, the department takes action to hold licensed providers accountable."
The agency is probing Davis' death but cannot provide any additional details until the investigation is complete, James said.
McKeesport police said Tuesday night in a prepared release that there was no evidence of foul play or criminal activity related to Davis' disappearance or death.
New Life is subject to regular inspections by DHS, and the facility has been inspected at least 20 times over the past 10 years.
Although recent inspection reports show mostly minor violations related to incomplete recordkeeping, some were related to safety.
During an unannounced inspection in February 2018, DHS said the facility's fire alarm had been silenced for three days due to a malfunction, and that New Life did not have a backup plan in place; a three-gallon can of gasoline was being stored in a "designated smoking area"; and that more than six months had elapsed between fire drills.
In March 2017, inspectors reported that the home was required by law to provide at least one hour of direct care to each ambulatory resident per day, and had fallen short on two of the days examined.
During the same visit, inspectors found torn and damaged furniture and mattresses, mold on some residents' bath mats, no handrails at two entrances and incomplete records of when the facility had staged fire drills.
In every case, New Life provided corrective action plans to DHS and agreed to fix the violations.
Many McKeesport residents shared memories and stories Wednesday of the man some called "Mr. Sam." On Tube City Online's Facebook page, reader Marlene Mehlman Jones said she saw Davis taking walks up and down Versailles Avenue in the mornings.
Another reader, Gloria Cipicchio Balogh, called Davis' death "sad."
He was "a forgotten soul that many of us used to see walk up and down the road, stop at the mini mart and chat at the barber shop in years past," she said.
Several readers questioned how Davis could have re-entered the care home and remained undiscovered in the basement.
A message left by Tube City Almanac for New Life's owner and administrator, James Cole, had not been returned at publication time. On Wednesday, the facility's phone would not accept incoming calls.
According to Steelers teammates, Davis had been in poor health and was unable to recognize many of his old friends. A 2018 article in Pittsburgh Magazine reported that he had lived at New Life for several years.
Jason Togyer is the editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published September 12, 2019.