Andy Irons' autopsy results have finally been released and his family posted a lengthy statement regarding the tragedy that took place last November when Irons, a three-time world surfing champion from Hawaii, to a combination of a heart attack and drugs in his system. Heart attack was ruled cause of death, but the family was open about Irons' battle with bipolarism and medications. Andy Irons was 32 years old.
Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a prominent forensic pathologist in San Antonio, TX was asked to review and explain the autopsy results to the family. He stated:
"This is a very straightforward case. Mr. Irons died of a heart attack due to focal severe coronary atherosclerosis, i.e., 'hardening of the arteries.' He had an atherosclerotic plaque producing 70%-80% narrowing of his anterior descending coronary artery. This is very severe narrowing. A plaque of this severity, located in the anterior descending coronary artery, is commonly associated with sudden death. The only unusual aspect of the case is Mr. Irons' age, 32 years old. Deaths due to coronary atherosclerosis usually begin to appear in the late 40's. Individuals such as Mr. Irons have a genetic predisposition to early development of coronary artery disease. In about 25% of the population, the first symptom of severe coronary atherosclerosis is sudden death. There were no other factors contributing to the death."
Irons was found in his hotel room in Texas. In the room, the police discovered prescription bottles for Alprazolam, used to treat anxiety, and Zolpidem, a sleep aid, along with tablets containing methadone, a narcotic used to treat pain and opiate addiction. Toxicology tests showed Irons also had cocaine and methamphetamine in his system.
Andy had a grandmother, 77, and a grand-uncle, 51, both on his father's side, who died of congestive heart failure. The family mentioned that Andy complained of chest pains and occasional intense heartburn for the first time last year and also recalls a holistic health practitioner, whom he sought out in Australia for vitamin therapy offhandedly mentioning he "had the heart of a 50-year-old." In addition, Andy contracted Typhoid Fever five years ago, which can result in damage to the heart muscle. Andy shrugged it all off and led no one to believe he was in ill health.
After winning championships from 2002 through 2004, and cementing his reputation as one of the greatest competitive surfers, Irons baffled the surfing world with erratic behavior. He abruptly quit the 2008 tour, and sat out the 2009 season before making a comeback in 2010.
The family's statement continues:
"Andy was prescribed Xanax and Zolpidem (Ambien) to treat anxiety and occasional insomnia, a result of a bipolar disorder diagnosed by his family doctor at age 18. This is when Andy first began experiencing episodes of manic highs and depressive lows. The family believes Andy was in some denial about the severity of his chemical imbalance and tended to blame his mood swings on himself and his own weaknesses, choosing to self-medicate with recreational drugs. Members of his family, close friends, and an industry sponsor intervened over the years to help Andy get clean, but the effort to find balance in his life was certainly complicated by his chemical makeup."
In December, Irons' widow, Lyndie, received a six-month injunction from releasing the autopsy report from a Texas judge. On May 20, she received another 30-day injunction. This week the results were finally made public.
Source: SURFER Magazine
Written by Sy Kraft