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CMC sophomore Ali Mirza has died after reportedly ‘huffing’ nitrous oxide

As the Mirza family prepared to celebrate the graduation of their oldest son from Claremont McKenna College this weekend, they were faced with an unspeakable tragedy—the unexpected death of their youngest son, CMC sophomore Ali Mirza, who was pronounced dead just 24 hours before his older brother’s college graduation. The boys’ parents were in town for the commencement.

The call came in to Claremont police at almost 1 a.m. on Friday, May 17. Police found Mr. Mirza, a 19-year-old from Westport, Connecticut, unresponsive at his college dormitory off Sixth Street. He was transported to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead by medical officials.

On Friday, Akbar, Mr. Mirza’s older brother, posted a link on his younger brother’s Facebook page sharing a music video, “Most Beautiful Azan” by Manour Zahrani.

 “I would like to share this with everyone,” Akbar wrote. “One of the most beautiful sounds Ali and I have found. We always talked about how great it was. Please enjoy it and remember him always. Thank you so much for your support everyone.”

The Los Angeles County coroner has not confirmed the cause of death, however, whippets—small canisters used for inhaling Nitrous Oxide—were found near Mr. Mirza’s body suggesting that huffing was involved, according to Claremont police.

Nitrous oxide, also referred to as “laughing gas,” is often mixed with oxygen and administered through a mask by a medical official or dentist for procedures. However, when the gas is inhaled through a canister, oxygen is cut off from the brain causing the potential for dangerous side effects and death, according to Claremont Lieutenant Mike Ciszek.

“There is such an immediate high. People don’t think it’s big a deal, but they don’t realize how dangerous it is,” Lt. Ciszek explained. “You are depriving the body of the oxygen it needs. If you inhale too much, your body just shuts down.”

Mr. Mirza, a media studies major, was known among friends for his outgoing nature and genuine spirit, as well as his active involvement. An avid volleyball player at his alma mater Staples High School in Connecticut, Mr. Mirza served as the score manager for the women’s volleyball team at CMC. He was also a former staff editor for a fitness radio station near his hometown in Connecticut and was reportedly a dedicated DJ/music mixer.

Though a funeral service has not been announced, friends and family shared fond memories and parting words of a man they say “exuded perpetual warmth.”

“We lived lives with separate interests, friends and memories, yet you always remembered to reconnect, enlighten me about the ease of love, life, mac ‘n cheese and music,” one friend wrote. “You remained one of my most treasured friends.”

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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