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No others involved in McCarthy plunge, says coroner
John McCarthy. Picture: Lachlan Cunningham/Slattery Media

AFL footballer John McCarthy told his girlfriend he wanted to return home just before falling to his death at a Las Vegas casino complex.

McCarthy is understood to have telephoned his girlfriend, saying he was heading to the airport after being separated from his Port Adelaide teammates on an end-of-season trip to the US.

As a Las Vegas coroner said it appeared no suspicious circumstances surrounded the 22-year-old’s death, McCarthy’s family in Australia told of their pain.

McCarthy’s uncle, John Olle, said the family had “suffered a devastating loss” but had been overwhelmed by well-wishers.

“A life does not attract a response of such magnitude unless it’s truly worthy, and the life of Johnny was,” Mr Olle told reporters in McCarthy’s home town of Sorrento in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

“He was a unique, a precious and a loved young man.”

McCarthy was on a driveway of the Flamingo Hotel at about 5.40am on Sunday, Las Vegas time - some four kilometres from the hotel where he was staying.

About two hours before his death, McCarthy telephoned his girlfriend Dani Smarrelli in Adelaide, sounding confused and saying he wanted to return home, Smarrelli is understood to have told Port officials.

“We do not have a lot more information about the events that led to John’s death,” Port CEO Keith Thomas said in a statement today.

“US authorities have confirmed that John died after falling approximately nine metres from a building after becoming separated from his teammates.

Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy said McCarthy had plunged about nine metres from the roof.

“We are no clearer about how or why that happened.

“There are media reports of a phone conversation between John and his girlfriend Dani in Adelaide, we are aware a call was made but we will not speculate or comment further about that conversation.”

McCarthy fell from a roof of the three-storey Flamingo casino, adjoining the 30-floor hotel complex.

Clark County Coroner Mike Murphy said McCarthy had plunged about nine metres from the roof.

Mr Murphy said an autopsy had been completed but it would take eight to 12 weeks before results from toxicology tests were known.

“There is nothing that indicates this is a homicide, so now we’re investigating this as either an accident or a possible suicide,” Mr Murphy said.

McCarthy was with 10 Port players in Las Vegas at an end-of-season holiday, although his teammates were unaware of his death until contacted by club officials in Australia.

The 10 teammates were returning to Adelaide as the AFL announced there would be a minute’s silence before this weekend’s semi-finals in respect for McCarthy, who played AFL for Collingwood before switching to Port late last year.

His coach at Collingwood, Mick Malthouse, paid tribute to McCarthy at a media conference on Tuesday announcing his appointment as Carlton’s new coach.

“It’s one of those moments where you come to realise being an AFL footballer doesn’t give you an immunity to tragedy,” Malthouse told reporters in Melbourne.

“A lot of boys would like to think they wear a Superman suit around but unfortunately that’s not the case.”