It's been seven months since surfing legend Andy Irons passed away suddenly at the age of 32 — and we finally know why.
Irons' body was found in his hotel room on Nov. 2 — along with methadone, a controlled substance used for pain, and numerous other medications on a bedside table. Surfing officials disclosed that he had been suffering from dengue fever, (otherwise known as "breakbone fever" a painful mosquito-transmitted infection), so speculation naturally centered around a possible O.D. from pain meds.
As was revealed today, however, Irons actually suffered a sudden heart attack due to severe hardening of the arteries.
“This is a very straightforward case," said Dr. Vincent Di Maio, who at the request of Irons' family was brought in to interpret the autopsy results. "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 official autopsy result also listed a secondary cause of death as “acute mixed drug ingestion.” Toxicology tests found methadone, Xanax, benzoylecgonine (a breakdown product of cocaine), and a “trace amount of methamphetamine." Di Maio, however, disagreed that this cocktail of drugs had anything to do with Irons' death and questioned in the release why it was listed under that heading.
According to the family, a bipolar disorder diagnosed at age 18 led Irons to occasionally 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," the release states.
Ultimately, they believe the flu-like symptoms before his death, along with a weakened body due to dengue fever, may have been too much for his compromised heart.
The family delayed the release of the autopsy report so that Irons' wife, Lyndie, (who was eight month's pregnant at the time of his death) could give birth to their son in peace.
"We are hoping that people will remember Andy for his very full life, which included his intense passion for surfing and the ocean, his astonishing achievements as a world-class athlete, and his devotion to the family and friends who love him dearly and miss him every day," the family wrote in the release. "Receiving the disturbing news about the cause of death brings back the shock and tremendous grief we first felt upon receiving word that Andy had passed."
You can view the full release from the family here.