John McCarthy died in a Las Vegas hotel driveway as a result of a tragic accident, Port Adelaide football boss Peter Rohde said this morning.
Fairfax understands McCarthy's family and girlfriend Dani Smarrelli were contacted early today to be assured that McCarthy's death was neither deliberate nor suspicious - a finding confirmed by the Las Vegas coroner.
The 22-year-old appears to have climbed down a ladder from the third-storey roof balcony of the Flamingo Hotel onto a lower level where he then attempted a failed leap across to a palm tree but instead landed on his back on the bitumen below.
While the results of a toxicology report will not be known for some weeks, it is understood McCarthy had been drinking heavily at a Las Vegas nightclub with his team mates. The Port Adelaide players, who arrived home early today, have told club officials that illicit drugs were being regularly offered to them during the four hours McCarthy spent at the nightclub but they had no knowledge of him taking any substance other than alcohol.
Port Adelaide moved quickly to reassure a distressed Smarrelli that McCarthy's death, which occurred less than 30 minutes after the two had spoken, was an accident.
The roof area of the Flamingo Hotel where McCarthy found himself after wandering several kilometres from his clubbing teammates was a restricted area meant only for casino staff who used it as a smoking area.
The door was normally locked according to the hotel, with staff unable to explain how McCarthy had entered the area. The retaining wall on the roof area is only about 20 centimetres high.
The Coroner is understood to have released the body but his office has reported that McCarthy's family has requested that details of his return home remain private. Rohde is understood to be remaining in Las Vegas until he has received clearance to accompany McCarthy home.
Port Adelaide players and parents spent much of yesterday at the Adelaide home of Jay Schultz and were today convening at the home of Port Adelaide assistant coach Shaun Rehn, while captain Dom Cassisi was tomorrow planning to host players and their families. The AFL Players Association along with the club was providing regular counselling for club players and staff with an emphasis on the group of 10 who were in Las Vegas with McCarthy.
Those teammates were not aware McCarthy was missing until lunchtime on Sunday - early Monday morning AEST - after they had headed home from the nightclub and slept in their own rooms.
The club now believes McCarthy covered almost four kilometres walking from casino to casino.
Peter Rohde, Port Adelaide's football operations boss and a family friend of the McCarthys, has now visited the scene of the fall that took the young player’s life.
Rohde sat and talked to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officers at the taxi rank by the Flamingo casino's main entrance for some time before walking along the footpath to the palm tree where Mr McCarthy's body was found early on Sunday morning.
The police officers pointed out the roofline from which it is thought Mr McCarthy may have fallen.
The body will be released to his family today.
Although it is believed Smarrelli was concerned enough to contact friends in a bid to locate the other Port players, she has been unable to shed any light on what else took place in the hour or two leading up to McCarthy's death.
''We still don't know and they [the other players] don't know what happened,'' Port Adelaide chief executive Keith Thomas said last night, ''because after he got separated from them they never saw him again. We know there was a situation where he might not have been able to get into a nightclub and went elsewhere.''
The available CCTV vision shows McCarthy entering the Flamingo Hotel, climbing a stairwell and then standing on a mezzanine roof close to 10 metres from the ground. But just how he fell is not known in any detail despite reports in the US media to the contrary.
The Las Vegas coroner reported no suspicious circumstances. The club reported yesterday the 22-year-old had no history of depression according to the club doctor and had not been prescribed any medication during his time at Alberton.
McCarthy's body was first viewed by off-duty policeman Stuart Bailey and was to be identified again overnight, Melbourne time, by Rohde, who arrived in the city late yesterday.
He missed the 10 Port Adelaide players - including Jackson Trengove, Alipate Carlile and Travis Boak - who had driven to Los Angeles after being interviewed by police and were due to arrive home early today.
The AFL organised flights for all 10 on the same plane and a private area at Los Angeles airport where they met a grief counsellor sent by the club.
''The way we're dealing with it is with extreme care for the people involved,'' said Thomas. ''We're really concerned for the guys who are travelling back. They've left a mate behind in the US and they've spent 27, 28 hours on the road and some are distraught.
''We've got a plan for every day for the next two weeks. We are looking at their movements, we are speaking with parents here. The advice we are getting is to get these guys back into a group environment to a point where they feel comfortable and can talk about this.''
Rohde's other task was to work with police and the local consulate to ensure McCarthy's body could be returned home to his family as soon as possible. A police investigation of the tragedy could take up to six weeks.
A spokeswoman for the Cooke County Coroner's office said it could be six to eight weeks before the results of an autopsy were completed.
McCarthy's large and close-knit family was being reunited at the Portsea home of his parents Shane and Cath with brother Matthew, who spent two seasons with Geelong, travelling from Ireland where he was living and working and one of McCarthy's sisters flying home from the US.
Smarrelli had been due to arrive in the US this week with several other Port Adelaide players and partners. Instead she has remained for now in Adelaide with her father, a Melbourne businessman, who on Monday had returned home from a working trip to India.
It was a heavy-hearted AFL community that gathered last night in Melbourne for the Most Valuable Player presentation. It was another tough day for the Magpies, who play a semi-final on Saturday night and count six players among McCarthy's closest friends.
And it was a terrible day at Alberton where tributes were being laid by Port Adelaide fans. The players stayed away, convening at the homes of teammates under the guidance of captain Dom Cassisi.
And as the shadows drew long at the Sorrento Oval, McCarthy's uncle John Olle spoke of ''a unique and precious and loved young man.''
Football in the spring was never meant to be like this. And yet football responded yesterday as best as it possibly could.
With Nick O'Malley