Coroner Rules South Carolina Teen Died of Rare Caffeine-Induced Arrhythmia

An autopsy carried out after the 26 April 2017 death of South Carolina teen Davis Cripe shows that he died of a heart problem related to caffeine consumption.

  • Published 16 May 2017

On 15 May 2017, a South Carolina coroner concluded that a 16-year-old boy who collapsed and died suddenly was the victim of of a cardiac incident caused by excessive caffeine consumption:

The official cause of death for Davis Allen Cripe was a “caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia,” said Richland County Coroner Gary Watts. It was the result of the teen ingesting the caffeine from a large Diet Mountain Dew, a cafe latte from McDonald’s and an energy drink over the course of about two hours, Watts said.

Watts made the announcement during a Monday news conference with Davis’ father, Sean. Watts said the teen was healthy and had no family history of a medical problem the caffeine could have exacerbated.

Davis Cripe collapsed in a Spring Hill High School classroom on 26 April 2017, shortly after drinking three caffeinated beverages in under a two-hour span. After buying a McDonald’s latte at 12:30 P.M., Cripe drank a Diet Mountain Dew and an unspecified energy drink. Two hours after that, emergency services were called to take the teen to Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Davis’ father Sean Cripe appeared with public health officials to warn of the dangers of excessive caffeine consumption. The coroner confirmed that the boy did not have an undiagnosed heart condition prior to the fatal event and had no preexisting conditions or family history of heart problems: 

The autopsy showed no “unfounded” or “undiagnosed heart condition,” said Watts, who was careful not to call Davis’ death a caffeine overdose. He added that Davis had “a previous history of drinking” caffeinated beverages but nothing that his family considered to be an addiction.

“A cup of coffee, a can of soda isn’t going to cause this thing,” said Dr. Amy Durso, deputy chief medical examiner for Richland County. “It’s the amount and also the time frame in which these caffeinated beverages are consumed that can put you at risk.”

Cripe’s official cause of death was ruled to be arrhythmia caused by the consumption of caffeine in the hours immediately prior to his collapse and death. Watts emphasized at the conference that the community lost Davis to “a totally legal substance”.
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