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Finding Irons' cause of death will take weeks

An autopsy done on the surfing champ rules out trauma and foul play

By Dan Nakaso and Mike Gordon

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:01 p.m. HST, Nov 04, 2010


View PDF / Dallas-Fort Worth Police Report

View PDF / Tarrant County ME's Statement

An autopsy was performed on Andy Irons yesterday in Texas, but the Tarrant County medical examiner won't know for several weeks why the three-time world surfing champion from Kauai died, pending toxicology reports.

Irons, 32, was discovered dead Tuesday morning in Room 324 of the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport's Grand Hyatt Hotel in Grapevine, Texas, along with the prescription medications alprazolam and zolpidem, according to a Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Police report.

Alprazolam goes by the brand name Xanax, which is used to treat anxiety disorders. The brand name of Zolpidem is Ambien, which is taken for insomnia.

There were no signs of forced entry to Irons' hotel room and "nothing appeared out of the ordinary," the police report said. A wallet inside a backpack contained Irons' Hawaii driver's license, credit cards and cash, according to the report.

"A complete postmortem examination ... was essentially negative for trauma, and foul play is not suspected," the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office said in a statement yesterday. "Both the cause and manner of death are pending completion of postmortem laboratory studies."

Phil Irons was in Texas yesterday tending to his son's affairs and said that Irons died of dengue fever, a viral illness transmitted by mosquitoes in tropical climates. "He's gone. My son is gone," he said.

The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office on Tuesday told the Star-Advertiser that a container of Zolpidem actually contained methadone, a powerful controlled substance most commonly used for pain.

Before he flew to Dallas, en route to Hawaii, Irons had been scheduled to compete in Puerto Rico in the Rip Curl Pro Search leg of the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour contest, which has a waiting period of Oct. 30 to Nov. 10, said Renato Hickel, ASP tour manager.

Irons had just finished competing in Portugal and arrived in Puerto Rico sometime last week, Hickel said yesterday from Puerto Rico.

On Saturday, Irons called Hickel to say that he was sick and could not compete, Hickel said.

"He could barely move out of his bed," Hickel said. "I asked him what kind of sickness and he said he had flu symptoms and it looked like a strong flu virus. He had aches and pains and all the symptoms. I discussed the fact that he missed round one because of the sickness and he was willing to miss round two as well."

Irons had checked into the Villa Tropical Oceanfront Apartments on Shacks Beach on the north-northwest end of Puerto Rico, where other ASP surfers were staying.

Hickel asked Irons whether he wanted to come to the competition site at a spot called "Middles" -- between the Puerto Rican towns of Isabela and Aguadilla -- to see the tour's American doctor. But Irons was too sick to leave his beachfront apartment, Hickel said.

"He said he'd rather have a doctor come to see him because he was sick," he said.

Hickel does not know whether a doctor treated Irons before Irons flew out of Puerto Rico on Sunday.

"That was our very last conversation," Hickel said.

He disputed reports that surfers on the ASP tour had contracted dengue fever in Portugal or Puerto Rico.

"That's not true," Hickel said.

A South African surfer also came down with flulike symptoms in Puerto Rico but still competed, he said.

Until Irons' death, Hickel said he had rarely heard of methadone, let alone seen any evidence that Irons might have been taking it.

"I never, never heard about that at all," he said. "I didn't even know what methadone was for until he died."

The Dallas/Fort Worth police report listed the date of Irons' Alprazolam and Zolpidem medications as Oct. 26.

Asked yesterday whether Irons would have any reason to possess meth-adone, Phil Irons said: "That's private family information. He is a 32-year-old man and I don't know everything he does. He was just trying to get home."

Irons arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport at 6:30 a.m. Monday from Miami on American Airlines Flight 495, according to the police report.

He checked into the airport's Grand Hyatt Hotel in Terminal D at 8:47 a.m. Irons' room key was last used at 8:59 a.m., according to the police report.

When Irons did not answer his hotel room wake-up call Tuesday morning, police officers were dispatched at 9:43 a.m. and were escorted by hotel staff to conduct a "welfare check."

After Irons failed to answer a knock on the door, police discovered Irons lying in bed on his back, with the sheet pulled up to his neck.

"The bed covers and pillows were neatly set and nothing appeared out of the ordinary," according to the police report.

Phil Irons said Andy should have been back home on Kauai on Monday but was escorted off an American Airlines flight leaving Dallas.

"He was supposed to be in Hawaii at 2:30 p.m. Monday," Phil said. "When he went to get on the plane in Dallas, he was very ill and they wouldn't let him stay on the plane. They wouldn't even take care of him. They walked him to the gate and said, 'See ya, you're not flying today.' Instead of calling me or his wife or putting him in a hospital, they sent him off and he was by himself and he ends up going to a hotel and dying."

American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said yesterday that Irons was booked on American Airlines Flight 123 from Dallas to Honolulu on Monday -- until a female relative called American's reservation employees two hours before boarding time to reschedule Irons' seat for the same flight Tuesday morning.

"American Airlines did not refuse or deny travel at any point for Mr. Irons," Huguely said. "Please pass along our condolences to the family. I am sure it is a very difficult time."






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