Hours before seemingly healthy teenager Davis Allen Cripe died in hospital on April 26, he was sitting in his classroom when he suddenly collapsed. Gary Watts, Richland County Coroner confirmed he died from a “Caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia.” Within a two hour period, he had consumed a McDonald’s latte, a large Mountain Dew soft drink, and an energy drink. While it was a large amount of caffeine, it was how quickly it was consumed that made the combination lethal.
According to friends, Davis had chugged the energy drink about 15 minutes before he collapsed. Watts confirmed that the autopsy revealed no evidence of alcohol or drug abuse or any other medical conditions that could have caused the teen’s death. The teen weighed around 200 lbs, so based on his weight, his caffeine intake was considered to be a safe level. However, the effects of energy drinks have never been tested on children and teenagers according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Energy drinks can cause irregular heartbeats and blood pressure changes in fully grown adults. It may have been too much on the teen’s heart causing it to stop beating properly.
The caffeine content in energy drinks vary widely but most contain the equivalent of three cups of coffee in addition to 14 teaspoons of sugar. Davis may have consumed approximately 470mg of Caffeine: 142mg from his McDonald’s latte, 90mg from the Mountain Dew and 240mg from the energy drink. While Watts stated this wasn’t something that happened often, it was “certainly a possibility for anyone, especially if they have a sensitivity to caffeine” and depending on how it is all consumed.
Davis Cripe’s father Sean hopes other parents will learn from his son’s death about the risks of their own children’s caffeine intake. “I stand before you as a broken-hearted father and hope that something good can from this,” he said.
“Parents please talk to your kids about the danger of these energy drinks. And teenagers and students, please don’t buy them. There’s no reason to consume them. They can be very dangerous. It wasn’t a car crash that took his life,” Davis’s father stated. “Instead, it was an energy drink.”
Watts pointed out that the purpose of revealing all these details was “not to slam” these caffeine drink companies but to make sure people understand large amounts of caffeine and how they are ingested “can have dire consequences.” Like so many other teens and young people do today, consuming caffeine was something Davis considered harmless, but the worst case happened.