PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. -- A thin, beautiful model dies under mysterious circumstances, and the questions begin.
Could the blast of bronchial spray she inhaled have killed her? Eating disorders? Drug use?
Broward County, Fla.'s medical examiner, Joshua Perper, doesn't know yet what killed Krissy Taylor on the brink of supermodel status, although preliminary autopsy results point to heart failure.
But doctors and pharmacists say Primatene Mist, the asthma inhalant she used about two hours before her death, can cause rapid heartbeat which, in combination with other medical conditions, could kill an otherwise healthy young girl.
"Primatene Mist can cause panic attacks. It's an upper that can accelerate the heartbeat," said Dr. Brian Greer, a physician at the Renfrew Center in Deerfield Beach, Fla., a center for eating disorders and substance abuse.
"If you had another condition, an eating disorder, say, that could be enough to do it," Dr. Greer said.
The Taylor family has been adamant in its denial that the 6-foot, 126-pound 17-year-old with the same blond good looks as her older sister, world-famous model Niki Taylor, suffered from an eating disorder or substance abuse.
"Absolutely not. She was a very healthy kid," said a family spokesman reached at the Pembroke Pines home where Krissy collapsed sometime after 2:30 a.m. Sunday.
Her sister found her unconscious on the floor of the family's living room about 4:30 a.m. and called paramedics. They were unable to revive her. She was declared dead just before dawn at Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines.
Krissy had been using the inhaler for periodic shortness of breath, a condition that her family doctor, Dr. William Bruno, described as related to exertion. She had not been diagnosed as asthmatic, he said.
But pharmacists caution users of the inhalant and all over-the-counter drugs to re-examine their often cavalier attitude toward such medications. "People don't read the labels," said pharmacist Harold Flower, who has dispensed drugs in Wilton Manors, Fla., for 10 years. "A lot of times, they take one hit from an inhaler like Primatene and then, before they give it time to work, they take another. That means a double dose, and they don't even realize that's dangerous."
Last November, a congressional panel heard testimony about potential dangers of Primatene Mist and considered changing it to a prescription drug. The panel took no action.
But the tablet form of Primatene was pulled from Florida pharmacy shelves about a year ago, Mr. Flower said, because people were abusing it -- using it as a stimulant.
Primatene in both forms contains epinephrine, a substance related to the hormone adrenalin, the body's natural upper.
Because women with eating disorders often already have irregular heartbeats -- caused by the stress they place on their bodies in the binge-purge cycle -- the combination of factors can be deadly, said Dr. Greer, of the Renfrew Center.
Additionally, women with eating disorders have an increased incidence of substance abuse, he said.
Krissy had been using the inhaler for about a year, and also was taking a prescription drug, Donnatal, a muscle relaxant used to treat stomach pain, diarrhea and cramps.
Neither drug is typically associated with abuse, Dr. Greer said, but they have a similar side effect: They suppress the appetite.
Krissy was "on the thin side, but she was healthy," said Dr. Perper, the medical examiner.
Funeral arrangements have not been completed, but services will be private, the family spokesman said.
On her personal Internet World Wide Web computer page, Krissy sounds every bit the sunny South Florida teen-ager, listing her astrological sign, Taurus, and her favorite color, green.
"I didn't want to be a model at first," she wrote to her fans. "I didn't think Niki's lifestyle was particularly glamorous, just hard work. But the money is very nice and you get to meet some really interesting people. I have to admit, I get a kick out of seeing the results of my shoots in the magazines."