The initial results of an autopsy failed to determine the cause of Kirk Urso’s death, an Ohio coroner said Monday.
Urso, a captain on the North Carolina men’s soccer team that last December won a national championship, died early Sunday morning in Columbus, Ohio, after being rushed to a hospital from a bar. He was 22.
Jan Gorniak, the coroner who on Monday performed Urso’s autopsy, said during a phone interview that she could not immediately identify a cause of death. Gorniak said she needed to wait for the results of toxicology tests before determining why Urso died. Those test results could take 4-6 weeks, she said.
Gorniak said, however, that Urso’s autopsy discovered what she described as “non-specific heart changes.” She said the changes in Urso’s heart could have been the result of a condition that led to his death. Gorniak said further tests would determine the significance of the findings.
Urso had been living in Columbus, where he was a midfielder for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer. At UNC, he played in 90 matches – more than anyone in school history – and he was known for his leadership on the team and in the campus community. Urso was a part of four UNC teams that reached the College Cup.
In his first public statement about Urso since his death, UNC soccer coach Carlos Somoano described Urso on Monday as “an exceptional human being.”
“While he helped us win many games and ultimately a championship on the pitch, to us he was an inspirational student, teammate, friend, leader, and captain,” Somoano said in a statement that UNC released. “Those that he touched would most certainly agree.”
Details of Urso’s death have remained scarce. The Columbus Dispatch on Monday posted audio of the 911 call that led police to the Columbus bar where Urso had apparently collapsed. The caller, apparently referring to Urso, told the 911 dispatcher, “Officers are with him. A very drunk person fell down and now he’s unconscious.”
The newspaper reported that Urso was pronounced dead at 1:50 Sunday morning.
Urso scored three goals and had seven assists last season for the Tar Heels, who prevailed in a 1-0 victory against Charlotte in the NCAA championship game. He was an all-NCAA tournament selection and, for the second consecutive season, an all-ACC second-team selection.
Urso graduated with a degree in economics and was named an ACC scholar-athlete of the year after his junior season in 2010. He also served on UNC’s student-athlete advisory council.
Urso’s death shocked current and former teammates, and several members of the national soccer community – including Mia Hamm – posted tributes on Twitter. News of Urso’s death was especially difficult on those who knew him during his four years at UNC.
“On the field he was the competitor, the captain, very in charge,” said T.J. Scholl, a recent UNC graduate who had been friends with Urso since their freshmen year. “Off the field he was a friendly guy who would stop and talk to anyone who wanted to talk. Whether he knew you for five minutes or five years, he had something nice to say.”
Staff writer Jonathan Jones contributed to this report.