Port Adelaide footballer's life cut short in Vegas hotel fall
AS A footballer, John McCarthy made those he played with smile easily and often. He made them feel better about themselves and feel deeply for him.
In his sudden death in Las Vegas yesterday, McCarthy - or J-Mac as those he played with knew him - has left many more football communities across the country feeling deep sadness.
The Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas. Photo: AFP
This morning, as mystery continued to shroud the circumstances of his death, the local coroner said McCarthy had fallen more than nine metres from part of the Flamingo Hotel.
Police were called by security from the hotel after the fall. McCarthy was pronounced dead 39 minutes later.
The young player was caught on CCTV standing on a mezzanine balcony. Two hours earlier, he had called his girlfriend in a distressed state, telling her he wanted to come home and was heading for the airport.
A Port Adelaide player by way of Collingwood and Sorrento, McCarthy had flown out of Australia at the weekend after the club's best and fairest, one of a group of 11 Port players doing as modern AFL players do and unwinding after the season in Vegas.
At some point there, the group fragmented and the players did their own things. McCarthy was not with his teammates when he fell. Details of the 22-year-old's death remain thin, with certainty only that he was found in the hotel driveway after a fall.
The Flamingo was not the hotel McCarthy was staying in, and no one yesterday was certain why he was there when he fell about 5.40am local time.
McCarthy was taken to the University Medical Centre of Las Vegas where he was pronounced dead. The incident is being investigated by the Nevada Clark County Coroner's Office.
‘‘A call from security at the Flamingo Hotel reporting that a subject had apparently fallen from a roof of the property onto a driveway, a distance of approximately 30 feet,’’ a Clark County Coroner and Medical Examiner’s Office spokeswoman said in a statement released this morning, Australian time.
‘‘An autopsy is being conducted today. The cause of death may take weeks to determine, pending the results of the autopsy and the return of toxicology and other laboratory reports.’’
Early yesterday Port Adelaide CEO Keith Thomas received a telephone call from the club doctor in France saying he had just heard on French radio that a Port Adelaide footballer had died in Las Vegas. Thomas had only minutes earlier received the awful news from Victoria Police.
"Just how it happened seems bizarre," Thomas said. "At some stage John and the group separated. They [the other players] are unsure when that happened. He ended up somewhere else on his own; it was a bit weird.
"I believe there were witnesses on the ground when the accident occurred. The police are trying to piece together what happened.''
Port Adelaide immediately sent football manager Peter Rohde to the US to meet the players there - Travis Boak, Matthew Broadbent, Alipate Carlile, Brett Ebert, Hamish Hartlett, Tom Logan, Andrew Moore, Paul Stewart, Jackson Trengove and Justin Westhoff - as well as one of McCarthy's three sisters and an Australian embassy official.
Another group of Port players and McCarthy's girlfriend, Dani Smarrelli, were supposed to meet them in the US later this week. That trip has been cancelled.
McCarthy was especially close to a group of players of his age at Collingwood, including Nathan Brown, Ben Reid, Jarryd Blair, Dayne Beams, Brent Macaffer and Lachlan Keeffe.
Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley last night tweeted his condolences: ''Thoughts are with family and friends of J Mac. Infectious personality and perpetual smile will stay with me.''
After four years and 18 games at Collingwood, McCarthy left the club at the end of last season in search of greater opportunity. He had been an emergency for the 2010 grand final replay, a situation that reflected his career there - close but not close enough to a game in an exceptional side. He left the club without animosity in search of more regular senior games. He found them at Port, where he played 21 matches this year.
"J-Mac was a great mate to a lot of us. He was a gutsy teammate and wonderful person," said Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell. "It's a terrible day, a devastating day. Everyone here, especially his closest friends, feel for the McCarthy family. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with them as we all bind together during this time. Today we lost a great friend."
Friends and former teammates Brown, Travis Cloke and Dale Thomas were among the many AFL players to tweet their condolences.
Collingwood players will wear black armbands in their semi-final on Saturday. So too will members of the Sorrento club, which plays in a grand final this weekend. Eighteen of the 22 members of the team came through the juniors, many of them playing with John.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou extended sympathies to the family on behalf of the league. "This is a terrible tragedy for John's loved ones and our deepest sympathies go out to them," he said. He asked people not to speculate on the circumstances of McCarthy's death.
Essendon players have cancelled a holiday in Las Vegas out of respect.
Geelong was among clubs to express sadness. McCarthy's father, Shane, and brother, Matt, both played with the Cats. Matt is in Ireland. One reason for the delay in the official release of his brother's identity was the time it took for the news to reach him. Most media yesterday chose not to reveal McCarthy's identity until its official release.
The coroner’s report into McCarthy’s death could take up to two months to complete.
The spokeswoman for the coroner's office said a family representative had identified the body and the coroner’s office was working with the family to return McCarthy’s body home.