Coroner: Teens died of overdose
October 23, 2006
GARDNERVILLE – Two Carson Valley teenagers whose bodies were found at Lake Tahoe near Zephyr Cove on July 22 died of a drug overdose, according to the Washoe County Coroner’s Office.
Alex Haas, 19, died from acute methadone intoxication with associated submersion in water. Tim Coleman died from acute methadone intoxication.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office released the cause of death on Monday.
Haas’ body was found in the water and Coleman’s body was nearby on the shore. Their deaths occurred during a summer thunderstorm and family members had speculated they may have been struck by lightning.
That finding was not upheld by the coroner’s office.
Leslie Haas said Monday she believed her son Alex and Coleman, boyhood friends, were experimenting with the methadone and accidentally overdosed.
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She also said the family would seek a second opinion because they believe lightning was involved.
“We don’t want people to think our kids were a couple of drug addicts,” Haas said. “Basically, they used it one experimental time. Alex and Tim are both so much smarter than that. I don’t think they had any idea.
“People are going to say, ‘That’s their parents and they want to think the best,’ but we think there is more to it.”
Methadone is a prescribed synthetic opiate used in the treatment of narcotics addiction or to treat chronic pain.
Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Mezzetta said incidences of death from the accidental overdose of methadone have increased.
“The majority of people who die from complications associated with methadone overdoses are not those to whom the narcotic is prescribed, but rather those individuals who use the drug for recreational purposes,” Mezzetta said.
Leslie Haas said she wanted to make sure people didn’t confuse methadone with methamphetamine.
“Our kids were not methamphetamine users,” she said.
The boys’ bodies were discovered the afternoon of July 22.
A passerby found Coleman’s body along the Lake Tahoe shore about 500 yards north of the Zephyr Cove Resort Pier.
About 30 minutes later, a sheriff’s patrol boat found Haas’ body submerged in eight feet of water about 30 feet from shore.
More than 400 people attended a joint memorial service for the boys, who graduated from Douglas High School in 2005. Coleman played football and Haas soccer.
Haas was a student at Truckee Meadows Community College, and Coleman attended University of Nevada, Reno.
“I just want the community to realize these boys were awesome kids with an awesome group of friends,” Leslie Haas said.
“The main thing for us would be if something is learned from this,” she said.
“Methadone is obviously a very dangerous drug, and its use should be closely monitored by a physician. All it takes is one time to end someone’s life.”
Roland Haas, 23, said the toxicology report on his brother’s death was frustrating for his family.
“Alex was always the type of kid with a good head on his shoulders. He never put anything in his body that was not natural,” Roland Haas said.
“Every kid experiments with stuff, but Alex was always the one to tell people they were being stupid with any drug or whatever.”
He agreed with his mother that Alex had no idea what he was taking.
“It’s really discouraging to find out there was methadone in his system. In a way, it tarnishes the legacy he left,” Roland Haas said. “What people want to remember are not the 10 hours leading up to Alex’s death, but the 19 years before that.”
Alex Haas loved life, his brother said.
“He would never put himself in a situation where he would have died,” Roland Haas said.
He said it was a blessing to the family that the toxicology report didn’t come out until so many weeks after Alex Haas’ death.
“Everyone wanted to know for closure, but once they found out, they said they didn’t care, that it didn’t matter. Unfortunately, it happened the way it did. But the fact of the matter is that he passed. We can’t think about his death. We have to remember his life.”
He said his brother had a profound effect on people’s lives.
“Just seeing the love that everyone has shown us is a testament to who Alex was. And that is the truth to us.”