A 14-year-old incoming freshman at Middleton High School (Hillsborough County, Fla.) collapsed and died after struggling through an offseason conditioning drill, setting off concern across Florida’s Gulf Coast.
As reported by the Tampa Tribune, Hezekiah B. Walters collapsed on the field Tuesday afternoon at the end of a 30-40 minute workout, and was later pronounced dead. The team’s offseason program has included wind sprints and weightlifting, with no obvious or immediate risk; the team used frequent water breaks between activities or reps, and Walters’ collapse is believed likely to be heart related.
“Our family is heartbroken with the loss of Hezekiah,” the Walters family said in a statement sent to the Tampa Bay Times. “We are still in shock and asking God to provide us peace. As we grieve our loved one, we ask for your prayers and that you respect our privacy during this time.”
While the cause of death remains undetermined, Walters’ death still sparked immediate reactions from the Hillsborough County school District; all summer workouts and athletic activities were put on hiatus until all coaches at all schools have reviewed safety procedures, all records of every student are checked to ensure they’re eligible to take part in offseason athletics and school principals report back that they have met these conditions.
All of those measures are on top of Florida High School Athletic Association heat acclimatization policies, including passing the National Federation of High Schools online education course entitled “Heat Illness Prevention.”
“We are devastated by the death of one of our students,” Hillsborough County Schools spokesperson Tanya Arja said in a statement released to the media. “This student was an amazing young man who was loved by his friends, teachers and staff at school. We were heartbroken to hear the news that he later passed away.”