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As a college student, Larry Bironas would occasionally drink alcohol. But he never liked the bar scene. It made him uncomfortable. In recent years, he can’t even remember finishing a full drink.
Something else made him uncomfortable: Hearing stories about his son, Rob, drinking and partying.
So Larry Bironas let his son know about it, again and again. He believed his son was listening and making better decisions.
That’s why the results of the toxicology report on Rob Bironas on Friday were so painful. The late Titans kicker had a blood alcohol level of .218 percent, well over the legal limit (.08) when he died in a one-vehicle crash on Sept. 20.
The Bironas family was informed of the news on Friday in a meeting with the Medical Examiner’s Office and Metro police.
“It’s a sad story: He drank too much and got in the car and it cost him his life,” said Larry Bironas, 68. “I don’t condone drinking, and Rob knew that. … Why it happened? Why had he been drinking so much that night? Why did he get behind the wheel? I don’t know. We’ll probably never know. At the same time I have to have faith and believe that someone has a better place for him.
“Rob’s life served a purpose. He had a better 36 years than most people are going to see and he didn’t take anybody with him, so I am thankful for that. The Lord took care of him as he saw to do it. But Rob knew better, he knew not to get in the car while drinking. It should have never happened.”
The completed autopsy report concluded that Bironas died from blunt force trauma received after he lost control of his 2009 Yukon Denali on Battery Lane.
A low level of Diazepam (Valium) was also detected, according to the toxicology report. The medical examiner reported that the level of Diazepam, 9 ng/mL, however, would have had a negligible effect on Bironas’ body.
The MNPD’s investigation into the crash is continuing. Police said no alcohol was found at the scene of the accident. In an interview with The Tennessean earlier this week, Larry Bironas said he expected alcohol to show up on the toxicology report, but he was hoping it would be a slight amount.
“I told you I could live with the news, even if it was bad,” Larry Bironas said, referring to the earlier interview. “Now if Rob had taken out a family, I would have had a tough time. But if God figures this is the way it has to be, it’s the way it has to be.
“Now I’ll probably kick him in his butt when I see him next,” Bironas continued, fighting his emotions. “It’s hard. … From everyone I talked to, Rob was very particular about not getting behind a wheel in that condition. He had distanced himself from the party scene. He was at home on this night, so why was he drinking so much? Why did he choose to drive this time? I don’t know. I can’t get in his brain now.”
The toxicology results provided the latest chapter in the tragic story.
Bironas’ vehicle hit several trees and landed upside down in a drainage culvert. He was buried on Sept. 25.
Two people claimed Bironas confronted them in road rage incidents minutes before crashing his SUV. Connor Fraley, a 20-year-old Belmont student, told The Tennessean he was a passenger in a vehicle Bironas tried to run off the road during a high-speed chase after making threatening comments. Police later released the two 911 calls.
“Our investigation into the crash is continuing, which is not unusual for any accident involving a fatality,” Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said. “Among the questions we’d like to answer is what the speed of the vehicle was at the time of the crash. The crash investigation team has methods to determine the speed, and we are hoping they will be productive in this case.”
In recent weeks, Larry Bironas has been doing some investigating of his own.
He recently drove the route his son took the night of his death, from the Battery Lane area to Wedgewood Avenue and back, and concluded he had enough time to leave his house around 10:40 and be back in the area around 11:01 p.m., the time of the crash.
Larry Bironas has seen the surveillance video taken at his son’s home that shows him leaving at 10:42 p.m. Bironas had spent the night watching movies with his wife, Rachel Bradshaw, and a friend. From what Larry Bironas witnessed on the video, Rob Bironas didn’t appear to be in bad condition, which caused him to hope for more positive results from the toxicology report.
Rachel Bradshaw told police the night Rob Bironas left the house that he was not intoxicated and drank a beer earlier in the evening.
Larry Bironas said he’s still not sure where his son was traveling and still can’t understand what set him off.
Rachel Bradshaw has left Nashville to spend time in Texas, he said.
“Rachel is beside herself. I know she hasn’t eaten in 4-5 days,” he said. “But I haven’t had a chance to talk to Rachel. We are all dealing with it the best we can.”
Bironas played for the Titans from 2005 to 2013. He was the franchise’s second all-time leading scorer and scored triple digits a franchise-record seven straight seasons.
The Titans plan to honor Bironas at Sunday’s game against the Browns with a moment of silence. Players will wear a special helmet sticker.
Larry Bironas said the family hasn’t decided whether to attend.