In the days immediately following Irons's death, it was reported that, in Dallas, an extremely ill Irons had attempted to board his connecting flight to Honolulu at 11:30 that morning but was turned away at an American Airlines gate—a claim the company denies.
"American Airlines did not refuse or deny travel at any point for Mr. Irons," says airline spokesman Tim Smith. He says a female family member—who identified herself as Irons's wife—called two hours before the flight left, said he was sick, and canceled his ticket, rescheduling him for the same flight the next day.
Irons's flight to Dallas arrived at 8:35 A.M. on Monday, November 1. The Grand Hyatt at DFW is located inside Terminal D, so he was able to check in to his room by 8:47. He opened the door to Room 324 at 8:59, ate a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, drank a bottle of Evian, and downed a couple of soft drinks. He never opened the door again. The next morning, Isaac Ambriz, a security employee with the hotel, was informed by the hotel operator that Irons wasn't answering his wake-up calls. At 9:43, Ambriz arrived at the room.
"[I] knock and announce, but there was no answer," Ambriz said in a statement to police. "I enter the room and notice Mr. Irons in bed. I call out his name and knock on the wall several more times." At 9:47, Ambriz called his supervisor, Crystal Montero. The two entered the room, and Montero, as she told police, "went to the right side of the bed and turned on the right bed lamp. At that moment, I noticed Mr. Irons not breathing."
IN THEIR INVESTIGATION, airport police said that Irons had been found lying on his back with a sheet pulled to his neck, the bed's sheets and pillows "neatly set" and with nothing "out of the ordinary." Police noted that Irons's prescriptions for both Xanax and Ambien had been filled on October 26, 2010, the day before Irons arrived in Puerto Rico.
Despite Irons's history of substance abuse and reports of illness, one can only speculate about what killed him, and it may be that a tragic combination of, say, dengue fever and prescription drugs did him in. Irons had been bouncing around time zones, had gone without sleep, had been drinking in Miami, and, at least according to his wife, was ill on the inbound flight to Dallas.
Dr. Bruce Goldberger, director of toxicology at the University of Florida medical school, says combinations like this can be dangerous. "The usual doses of Ambien and Xanax are very safe, even when taken together," he says. "But if there was an underlying medical condition like pneumonia or sleep apnea, the person would be at greater risk. Sometimes, we see deaths with perfectly healthy people when they take a small amount more of the medication than prescribed."
Notably, Irons had been diagnosed as suffering from sleep apnea. Goldberger added that if methadone were added to the mix, the situation would be much more risky.