Heart attack, drugs caused Irons’ death

LIHU‘E — Andy Irons died of a combination of a heart attack and drugs in his system, according to a Wednesday report first filed by The New York Times.

Irons, 32, died in a Texas hotel room in November and underwent an autopsy conducted by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s office, which was not scheduled to be made public until June 20.

The results of that autopsy, which The New York Times obtained from a publicist for the Irons family, indicate that the primary cause of death was “a heart attack related to coronary artery disease.”

It then states the secondary cause of death to be “acute mixed drug ingestion.”

The hotel room in which Irons was found reportedly contained bottles for prescription drugs Alprazolam and Zolpidem. Alprazolam is typically used to treat anxiety, while Zolpidem is a sleep aid. There were also tablets that contained methadone, which can be used to relieve pain, or to prevent withdrawal syptoms from other opiate drugs.

In addtion to those substances, the report indicates that toxicology screenings showed cocaine and methamphetamine in his system.

An additional medical examiner, Dr. Vincent Di Maio of San Antonio, Texas, was hired to review the autopsy findings. His opinion of the cause of death differed with those offered, as he said the drugs were not the main cause.

“This is a very straightforward case,” he said in a statement released to the media by the Irons family. “Mr. Irons died of a heart attack due to focal severe coronary atherosclerosis, i.e., ‘hardening of the arteries.’ … There were no other factors contributing to the death.”

In the family’s statement, Andy’s wife Lyndie “insists Andy was not a methamphetamine user, so it is likely the substance was present in the cocaine he ingested.”

They also indicate a family history of congestive heart failure on his father’s side, as well as a holistic health practitioner who mentioned that Andy “had the heart of a 50-year-old.”

These reasons, as well as additional toxicology information led Dr. Di Maio to his determination that “acute mixed drug ingestion” should not have been listed in the autopsy’s official causes of death.

Shock waves

The legendary surfer and three-time world champion’s death sent shock waves through the surf community, as well as deep sadness and reflection on Kaua‘i.

“I would say our whole town is in mourning,” said a woman known to many in Hanalei simply as Bobo on the day Irons’ hometown learned of the news. “He was very valuable to us all.”

His impact showed itself in full force when an estimated 6,500 people showed up to Hanalei’s Pine Trees surf break to honor Irons at a memorial ceremony and paddle-out on Nov. 14.

The Irons ‘ohana gathered with friends during a prayer service, after which brother Bruce led the charge into the calm Hanalei Bay waters where hundreds of friends, family and admirers joined to say their goodbyes.

“It was so emotional out there,” said Eddie Abubo after paddling back in to the shore. “Amazing amount of people came out to support this and Andy’s spirit and celebrate his life.”

The Irons family, including his wife Lyndie, had filed an injunction on the autopsy results in December. It was scheduled to be made public, but another delay was requested by a Dallas attorney, though the family says it was without their consent or knowledge.

In their statement, they indicate they were well aware that Andy had struggled with prescription drug use and chose “to self-medicate with recreational drugs.” They said family and friends had been determined to intervene in the past, but Andy’s chemical makeup made it difficult. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 18, they said, and would go through both manic and depressive states.

The family concluded its statement with thanks to those who had shown their condolences and support in the recent months.

“There was so much positivity in Andy’s professional and personal life, not least of which was how hard he worked to overcome his challenges,” the release said. “For this we remain forever proud of him.”

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