An Iowa couple and their two children who were found dead inside their rented Mexico condo had inhaled toxic gas, Mexican authorities said Saturday.
The Quintana Roo state prosecutor’s office said autopsies showed that all four family members, who were staying in Tulum on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, had asphyxiated. Authorities reiterated that there were no signs of foul play.
“Any violent act or suicide has been discounted,” authorities said.
Kevin Wayne Sharp, 41; wife Amy Marie Sharp, 38; Sterling Wayne Sharp, 12, and Adrianna Marie Sharp, 7, were found dead inside the condo Friday after their immediate family members had reported them missing to local police when the Sharps did not return to the United States on Wednesday as originally planned.
Authorities have not yet said where exactly the gas emitted. Photos published by the prosecutor’s office show firemen in respirators and other workers in anti-contamination suits examining gas connections and the unit’s oven. The Sharp family appeared to have been dead for 36 to 48 hours when they were discovered, Mexican authorities said.
“Life is not going to be the same without her,” Beth Fry, Amy Sharp’s mother, said Friday, according to the Associated Press. “Half my family is gone.”
The findings offer some answers to the sudden disappearance and deaths of the family of four from Creston, Iowa, about 70 miles southwest of Des Moines. Friends and family said the Sharps were beloved members of the community who supported the local college basketball team, whose players they would invite home for Christmas dinner and other holidays, according to the Associated Press.
The Sharps left the United States for Cancun on March 14, then rented a car and drove to Tulum, where they were renting a condo, according to Amy Sharp’s sister, Renee Hoyt, who spoke with the Creston News Advertiser. The condo was at Tao, according to the attorney general, near Akumal, a tourist-friendly beachfront community.
The family, who were on their second trip to Mexico, had planned to meet up with some friends at a water park, Amy Sharp’s cousin, Jana Weland, told ABC News.
But “they never showed up at that water park to meet them,” Weland said.
In fact, the Sharps’ relatives hadn’t heard anything from Kevin or Amy since the day they arrived in Mexico.
It was also unusual for the family not to post photos of their vacation to social media, because “last year they shared pictures about every day,” Weland said.
About a week later, on Thursday night, relatives had a sinking feeling that something wasn’t right. The Sharps were supposed to return to the United States about 2:45 p.m. Wednesday from Cancun and arrive in St. Louis about 6 p.m., family members said.
The relatives decided to wait for the last flight from Cancun to St. Louis to arrive Thursday in case the Sharps had just planned to stay an extra day, Weland told ABC News.
“I guess we were all kind of hoping for the best,” she said.
Then, the family tracked Kevin Sharp’s phone using Apple’s Find my iPhone app. It pinged in Mexico, Hoyt told the Creston News Advertiser. The phone had not moved from its location since Thursday morning.
Paulina Chávez Alonzo, a spokeswoman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, told NBC News that the government offered its “deepest condolences to the family and friends of the Sharps.”
Kevin Sharp was a salesman for the beer distributor Southwest Distributing Co., and Amy was a dental-claims specialist for Principal Financial in Des Moines. They had been married for more than 16 years, according to the AP.
Family members described Adrianna as the “fashion stylist” who “ruled that family.” Her brother was an athlete who played baseball, swam and hunted.
“They lived life on the fly, let me tell you,” Fry said, according to the AP.
Sharp was also an avid stock-car racer, known as “the Sharpshooter” in the local scene, and often competed in events in his neighboring county, friend and fellow racer Cliff Baldwin told the Des Moines Register.
“Creston is close-knit like all small towns in Iowa,” Baldwin added. “He’s a big part of that community there.”
On Saturday, the community held a candlelight vigil at Adams County Speedway, where the Sharps were regular spectators, the local NBC affiliate WHO reported.
“I can tell you one thing about Kevin Sharp: He was a family man. Most people don’t appreciate the fact that when you come to this racetrack, this is a family,” a friend of the Sharp family said.
On Friday, Fry said the family was determined to get through the tragedy.
“One way or another, we will.”