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Tampa teen who collapsed during conditioning drills on football field had body temperature of 102, report says

Hezekiah B. Walters, 14, had a temperature of 102 degrees when he arrived at the hospital in cardiac arrest after collapsing while participating in football conditioning drills at Middleton High School on Tuesday, according to a preliminary summary report by the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner says. His cause of death was still being investigated Thursday. [Courtesy of Men of Vision]
Published Jun. 13

TAMPA — The 14-year-old Middleton High School football player who collapsed and died while doing conditioning drills with the team on Tuesday had a body temperature of 102 degrees when he arrived in the emergency room, records show.

Hezekiah B. Walters' body temperature is among a few new details about the tragedy included in an investigative summary released Thursday by the Hillsborough Medical Examiner.

Hezekiah was running sprints and taking part in "ladder drills," which involve ladder-shaped devices laid flat on the field to improve players' speed and agility, for about 20 minutes when he began to vomit and suffered a seizure, the report says. By that point, Hezekiah had taken one water break, the report says.

Bystanders called 911 at 3:56 p.m. and started CPR. When Tampa Fire Rescue crews arrived five minutes later, Hezekiah was in cardiac arrest, the report says.

Paramedics administered two rounds of defibrillation and three rounds of epinephrine, the report says. When they arrived at the St. Joseph's Hospital at 4:21, emergency room personnel could detect no heart activity and noted Hezekiah's temperature was 102. They continued advanced cardiac support until he was pronounced dead at 5:05.

Dr. Kelly Devers, the chief medical examiner for Hillsborough, noted that this report is preliminary and could change as the investigation continues.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hillsborough schools halt summer workouts after teen football player collapses, dies

The Florida High School Athletic Association requires public schools that are members of the organization to have automated external defibrillators on campus. The location of the device must be registered with a local emergency medical services director.

School employees and volunteers who use the defibrillator have to go through training that includes a course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Hillsborough County School District spokeswoman Tanya Arja could not say if the defibrillator at Middleton was maintained, accessible or used by coaches or a trainer.

"These questions are all part of our investigation into what occurred," Arja said in an email. "We are looking at everything at this time."

All paid coaches in Hillsborough County must be CPR and AED certified, according to a memo sent out by the district to parents and reporters. They also have to take a heat illness prevention course. Volunteers must take courses on cardiac arrest and heat illness.

Conditioning should last no more than three hours per day, per FHSAA guidelines. Frequent water breaks and shade also are part of the safety procedures.

There are no restrictions on when practice or conditioning can take place in Pasco and Pinellas, the two neighboring counties to Hillsborough. But the athletic directors for both counties say they encourage their athletic teams to avoid working out between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., typically the hottest period of the day.

Pasco County athletic director Matt Wicks said he has trainers who are on campus for athletic activities year-round and there are immersion tubs for cooling down at each of the county's 13 public schools. He also supplies trainers with data thermometers that can check the core temperature of athletes who show signs of overheating.

"We've been very proactive on heat-related issues," Wicks said.

Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said athletic trainers are at every public school, though they are not required to be there in the summer. The county has supplied each trainer with his or her own defibrillator in addition to the one already on campus.

Bennett said he wants to update the emergency action plan with trainers and coaches at each school before the upcoming school year.

"We want to make sure we're doing everything right, especially with how hot it can be here," Bennett said.

The temperature at Tampa International Airport at 4 p.m. on Tuesday was 88 degrees but the heat index was 97 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Ruskin. That's not uncommon for the region this time of year, said Tyler Fleming, a forecaster for the weather service.

"It's always hot, always humid, and the high dewpoint really makes it feel hotter," Fleming said.

Hours after the incident, the Hillsborough school district said it was halting all summer workouts and athletic activities until staff complete a full review of safety procedures at every school.

School staff must check the records of every student to make sure they're eligible to take part in offseason athletics, and every school's principal must inform the district that these steps have been completed.

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

Contact Bob Putnam at bputnam@tampabay.com or (727) 580-4395. Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.

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