Sixteen-year-old Davis Allen Cripe from Spring Hill High School in South Carolina was pronounced dead on April 26 after ingesting an excessive amount of caffeine, which included the consumption of an unnamed energy drink.
According to the county coroner, Gary Watts, Cripe died from a “caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia.” The young boy collapsed in his classroom at 2:30 p.m. and was pronounced dead at Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge Hospital at 3:40 p.m.
Within two hours time, Cripe drank a cafe latte from a McDonald's, a large diet Mountain Dew, and an energy drink which has yet to be named.
On Monday, Watts informed the public of the circumstances surrounding the death in an emotional news conference, which was attended by Cripe's father, Sean.
The 16-year-old was by all accounts a healthy young man with no family history of heart problems and no known experience with drugs. In fact, Cripe was known to implore his friends to stay away from drugs, said Watts.
“Davis, like so many other kids and so many other people out there today, was doing something (he) thought was totally harmless, and that was ingesting lots of caffeine,” said the county coroner. “We lost Davis from a totally legal substance.”
"The autopsy showed no 'unfounded' or 'undiagnosed heart condition,' said Watts, who was careful not to call Davis’ death a caffeine overdose. He added that Davis had 'a previous history of drinking' caffeinated beverages but nothing that his family considered to be an addiction," notes The State.
The emotional father also took to the microphone, pleading with parents to talk to their children about excessive caffeine and energy drinks in general.
“It wasn’t a car crash that took his life,” said Sean of his teenage son. “Instead, it was an energy drink. Parents, please talk to your kids about these energy drinks. And teenagers and students: please stop buying them.”
Richland County Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Amy Durso, said it was the short time span in which such a large amount of caffeine was consumed that was to blame for the tragic death.
“A cup of coffee, a can of soda isn’t going to cause this thing,” she said. “It’s the amount and also the time frame in which these caffeinated beverages are consumed that can put you at risk."
“You can have five people line up right here and all of them do the exact same thing that happened with him that day — drink more — and it may not have any kind of effect on them at all,” added Watts.
Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said he has never seen a death due to a caffeine overdose in the state of South Carolina.
“That’s the only one I’ve heard of,” said Fowler. “We haven’t dealt with it.”
The full safety of energy drinks is yet to be settled; schools have been barred from selling them on campus per federal guidelines. The State reports:
A recently published study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that those who consume energy drinks end up with higher blood pressure levels for a longer period of time than those who drink just caffeine. The study was conducted on healthy volunteers between 18 and 40, after seeing the popularity of energy drinks rise with emergency room visits and deaths.
A 2015 Mayo Clinic study also found that one energy drink can increase the blood pressure of healthy young adults as well as stress hormone levels that also can raise the risk of cardiovascular events. The study, whose participants had an average age of 29, suggested that asking about energy drink consumption should become part of a physician’s routine.