Friends and family of Brandon Ireland are struggling to understand how the Scottsdale high school student died Saturday during a favorite ac tivity — hiking with friends in the McDowell Mountains.
The Maricopa County Forensic Science Center said Tuesday that the 18-year-old died as a result of his asthma. At the time, he was about halfway up a mountain he had climbed before.
"Brandon did have asthma, and I do believe that it is possible that the attack was severe enough to have triggered cardiac arrest," said his father, Mark Ireland, in an e-mail to the Tribune.
Even so, he questioned the cause of death for two reasons.
"One of Brandon’s friends who was with him the entire time has seen Brandon during an asthma attack before but said that this situation seemed completely different," he wrote.
Additionally, he said his son was taking Advair, a medication to combat asthma, and had an inhaler of Albuterol, used to treat asthma attacks.
Mark Ireland said the family is considering an independent autopsy.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality issued a high pollution advisory for Friday, saying the air was filled with particulates that increase the severity and frequency of asthma attacks.
Stephen Varns, 17, a friend of Brandon Ireland since seventh grade, said everyone was in shock about the death of the friendly teen known for his guitar playing and hiking.
"Sometimes he would give a little wheeze, but he always had his inhaler and he would be just fine," Varns said.
Brandon was one of eight teens hiking Saturday, said Mike Clark of Rural/Metro Fire Department. One called 911 at 3:48 p.m. to say that Brandon wasn’t breathing. When a rescue helicopter landed at 4:12 p.m., he was dead, fire records said.
Services for Brandon will be 10:30 a.m. Friday at New Covenant Lutheran Church, 15152 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd.