A teenager from the US state of South Carolina has died after drinking at least three highly-caffeinated drinks within a span of two hours, a coroner said on Monday (15 May).
Coroner Gary Watts said Davis Allen Cripe collapsed in his classroom at Spring Hill High School in April after having too many caffeine-containing drinks, including a McDonald's latte, a large Mountain Dew soft drink and an energy drink, too quickly.
Cripe died from a "caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia", he said, and clarified that "this is not a caffeine overdose."
Watts was speaking at a news conference to discuss the results of the investigation into the death of the 16-year-old, who died on 26 April at Palmetto Health Parkridge Hospital after his heart "fell out of rhythm" due to ingestion of too much caffeine.
The Richland County coroner was present for the conference with Cripe's father, Sean. He added that the teen bought the latte at a McDonald's around 12.30pm (5.30BST) and soon after drinking it, he consumed a large bottle of Diet Mountain Dew and then an energy drink sometime after the soda. He did not provide the name of the energy drink.
"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," Watts said. "We lost Davis from a totally legal substance."
While holding back his tears, Sean said, "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."
According to the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), children and teenagers should avoid drinking energy drinks as they contain ingredients that have not been tested on children and "no-one can ensure they are safe".
The guidelines from the AAP also said that the side-effects of these drinks include irregular heartbeats and changes in blood pressure.
"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," said Dr Amy Durso, deputy chief medical examiner for Richland County.