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 said on Monday.
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 Gary Watts, the coroner of Richland County, South Carolina.
Watts told Reuters by phone that physicians on his staff determined that Cripe 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 Cripe had to drink before he collapsed during a high school class, Watts said.
He said the primary witness to what Cripe drank could not definitely say what brand of energy drinks he had but said it was from a container the size of a large soft drink.
“The energy drink was basically chugged” Watts said.
Watts said Cripe 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,” 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.”
Although Davis Allen Cripe weighed a little over 200 pounds (90 kg), he was not considered morbidly obese and was said to be in “good health.” Watts added that the family history showed no medical problems that could have been exacerbated by caffeine, nor did the autopsy on Davis Allen Cripe reveal any undiagnosed heart conditions.
The teenager did, however, have “a previous history of drinking caffeinated energy drinks,” but not one that the family thought of as an addiction.
“A cup of coffee, a can of soda isn’t going to cause this thing. It’s the amount and also the time frame in which these caffeinated beverages are consumed that can put you at risk,” Dr. Amy Durso, Richland County deputy chief medical examiner, explained.
Up to 400 mg of caffeine a day is considered safe for the majority of healthy adults, according to The Mayo Clinic. As stated on CaffeineInformer.com, the amount of caffeine in each of Davis Allen Cripe’s drinks were as follows: 142 mg in a medium-sized McDonald’s latte, 90 mg in 20 ounces of Mountain Dew, and upwards of 240 mg in a 16-ounce energy drink.
All in all, the caffeine that Davis Allen Cripe consumed in those few hours were too much for his body. Watts elaborated by stating, “Based on his weight, the intake of caffeine that he had exceeded what is considered a safe level.”
Following the tragic turn of events, Sean Cripe has urged parents to speak with their children on the possible dangers of taking in too much caffeine. “It wasn’t a car crash that took his life. Instead, it was an energy drink. Parents, please talk to your kids about these energy drinks. And teenagers and students: please stop buying them,” Sean Cripe said.
Watts added, “Davis, like so many other kids and so many other people out there today, were doing something that they thought was totally harmless, and that was ingesting lots of caffeine.”
Cripe may have had the same amount of caffeine on another day and been all right, Watts said.
“We’re not trying to speak out totally against caffeine,” 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 400 milligrams of caffeine a day “appears to be safe for most healthy adults.”
According to caffeineinformer.com, a McDonald’s latte has 142 milligrams of caffeine, a 20-ounce Mountain Dew has 90 milligrams, and 16-ounce energy drinks can have as much as 240 milligrams.