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Teenager dies after six days in coma

He was a life of the party, a charmer in his own way. His friends and family say a part of Leighton Langston should live on forever.

Part of him very well may.

At University General Hospital in Tampa, doctors disconnected the machines that had kept the 18-year-old soccer fanatic alive since an apparent heart attack a week ago. He died a short time later.

Much of the evening, friends and relatives could only wait.

"We actually already have said our goodbyes," said his father, Fred Langston. "We believe that Leighton has left that body."

With little brain activity, Leighton had remained in critical condition as family and childhood friends crowded a conference room and lounge at the hospital. Their vigil, they said, was a walk in faith.

After his condition declined late Thursday afternoon, the teenager's parents said they agreed to donate his organs for transplant. "It's just a wonderful opportunity to make the best out of the worst scenario," his father said.

A team of surgeons came from Miami to remove whatever might be used elsewhere _ his pancreas, his eyes, his bone marrow. If all is well, the teenager's liver could be transplanted within 12 to 24 hours and his kidneys in 48 hours.

But his heart was totally damaged in the cardiac assault that caused him to collapse during a summer league soccer game. He had been standing on the soccer field behind Keswick Christian School last Friday night, talking about a party.

Two minutes were remaining in the game when Leighton jogged onto the playing field and fell down. He went into seizures. Doctors later determined an undetected heart defect had caused a massive heart attack, and a brain scan showed only minimal activity.

Throughout the week, his parents had considered whether Leighton's organs should be donated. After his condition worsened Thursday, they began making arrangements with LifeLink, a company that handles organ donations.

"Our understanding of life is to give," the Fred Langston said.

The teen's respirator was disconnected at 10:24 p.m. With only his mother and father in the room, Leighton died moments later.

"He never took the first breath on his own," said his mother, Lu Langston. "We were at peace with it. Of course we prayed for the opposite." As of 11 p.m., said family attorney Nancy Rutland, the surgical removal of the organs still was under way.

"As soon as he was declared clinically dead," she said, "they began the organ transfer."

Last year, Leighton was one of four Boca Ciega High School students involved in near-fatal crash. He suffered minor injuries, but his friends were critically hurt.

Leighton transferred to St. Petersburg High last year. He planned to finish high school this summer before enrolling in St. Petersburg Junior College.

Described as an avid jokester, Leighton was a soccer standout who also liked to play baseball, basketball and beach volleyball.

Even with his death, his family wants to celebrate his short life. They are planning a "memorial celebration" at 11 a.m. Saturday at Pasadena Presbyterian Church.

Information from Times files was used in this report.

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