US teen died after drinking too much caffeine too quickly

CHARLESTON (South Carolina) • A South Carolina teenager who collapsed in a high school classroom last month died because he drank several highly caffeinated drinks too quickly, a coroner has ruled.

Davis Allen Cripe, 16, drank a latte from McDonald's, a large Mountain Dew soda and a highly caffeinated energy drink in just under two hours, said Mr Gary Watts, the coroner of Richland County, South Carolina.

Mr Watts told Reuters by phone on Monday that physicians on his staff determined that Davis died from a "caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia".

It was likely that caffeine would not have been seen as a factor in his death if it had not been for witnesses who could tell officials what Davis had drunk before he collapsed during a high school class, Mr Watts said.

He said the primary witness to what Davis drank could not definitely say what brand of energy drink he had but said it was from a container the size of a large soft drink.

"The energy drink was basically chugged," Mr Watts said.

Mr Watts said Davis was considered a healthy teenager and did not have an undiagnosed heart condition. There was no sign of a heart condition in an autopsy of the 16-year-old.

"This is not a caffeine overdose," Mr Watts said. "We're not saying that it was the total amount of caffeine in the system.

"It was just the way that it was ingested over that short period of time, and the chugging of the energy drink at the end was what the issue was with the cardiac arrhythmia."

Davis weighed a little more than 90 kg but would not have been considered morbidly obese, Mr Watts said.

He died about an hour after collapsing in a high school near Columbia, South Carolina.

Davis may have had the same amount of caffeine on another day and been all right, Mr Watts said.

"We're not trying to speak out totally against caffeine," Mr Watts said. "We believe people need to pay attention to their caffeine intake and how they do it, just as they do with alcohol or cigarettes."

The Mayo Clinic said in a March report that up to 400mg of caffeine a day "appears to be safe for most healthy adults."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2017, with the headline 'US teen died after drinking too much caffeine too quickly'. Subscribe