Sheriff alters cause of Tahoe teens’ death
November 14, 2006
MINDEN – The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has adjusted the causes of death for two Carson Valley teens whose bodies were found at Lake Tahoe last summer.
In a release issued Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said the causes of death were changed due to “miscommunication between the Washoe County forensic pathologist office, Forensic Pathology Consultants and the Washoe County Coroner’s Office.”
The amended death certificate for 19-year-old Alex Haas lists “asphyxia due to fresh water drowning” with a secondary notation of “acute methadone intoxication.”
The amended certificate of death for Tim Coleman, also 19, is listed as “undetermined” with a notation of the possible involvement of “electrocution (lightning) and/or acute methadone intoxication.”
Death certificates issued last month listed acute methadone intoxication as the primary cause, but the boys’ families always believed there was more to their sons’ deaths.
Their bodies were found at Zephyr Cove after a summer thunderstorm and family members had speculated the boys may have been struck by lightning, a finding not initially upheld by the Washoe County Coroner’s Office.
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“The main thing is that the boys were just boys who made a decision that cost them everything,” said Roland Haas, Alex’s father.
“We always believed there was more to it than just an involvement of the methadone. There was an event that happened up there that involved weather and lightning. There were no witnesses. We can’t tell what happened.
“We believe there was lightning that may have struck the water or struck them.”
Roland Haas said he does not excuse his son’s apparent use of methadone. He said he hopes awareness will be raised about the dangers of the drug.
“There is not much knowledge. People are taking it legally with very adverse results. There needs to be a lot more information.”
Leslie Haas, Alex’s mother, said she believes everything happens for a reason, and that the family is relieved their suspicions about the cause of death were borne out.
“I’m glad we pursued it. We really suspected in our hearts that lightning was involved,” she said.
For Alex’s brother, Roland, 23, the amended cause of death “is a testament to the boys.”
“Everyone that knew Alex and Tim all said they didn’t believe it was just methadone. The whole time we all knew in our hearts it was drowning or something more.”
Alex’s father said he appreciated the authorities setting the record straight.
“Personally, I just want this to run its course. It shows that professional people can make mistakes. We appreciate their honesty and openness. We’re not at this moment looking at anything but continuing healing for our family and the community,” he said.
Roland Haas said he believed that the fact his brother and Tim used methadone overshadowed the investigation.
“If a kid up at Lake Tahoe drowned and had alcohol in his system, it wouldn’t have been mentioned at all. The fact that they took methadone, I think they totally disregarded evidence that pointed to something different.”