16-year-old's death linked to energy drink, caffeine products

Some teenagers unaware of how dangerous large amounts of caffeine can be for the heart

"We said we loved him when we sent him off to school that morning, but we never saw him again alive," recalls Heidi Cripe of the day her son Davis died. "Everyday we think about Davis. It's still heartbreaking, a lot of tears."

16-year-old Davis Cripe collapsed at high school in South Carolina after witnesses say he drank a Mountain Dew, a coffee, and an energy drink, all within 40 minutes.

"The way he ingested it brought on a cardiac event, arrythmia, which causes an ineffective heartbeat, which ultimately caused his death," explains Richland County Coroner Gary Watts.

"To him and most of these kids, they don't think it's anything different than a soda," says Davis' parents. Now, they're hoping to use their story to protect other young people. One South Carolina state representative is pushing a bill to ban the sale of the popular energy drinks to people younger than 18 which the family supports.

"We want to treat the energy drink as if it were alcohol," says lawmaker Leon Howard. He hopes his proposal becomes law next year. The Cripe family believes it would have saved Davis' life.

"Your whole job as a parent is to protect your children and get them to adulthood. When you learn it was something that was legal that took his life, that's hard to live with," says Sean Cripe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, says adults shouldn't have more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. That's roughly four to five regular cups of coffee. A single energy drink can contain 100 to 300 milligrams.

ABC3340 News spoke with Ann Slattery of the Regional Poison Control Center in Birmingham at Children's of Alabama. She says there have been cases in Alabama where teenagers have required emergency care after ingesting too much caffeine. She recommends teens avoid energy drinks altogether or limit their intake. She says it's recommended children under twelve have no caffeine. She says a large tea or two sodas contain roughly 100 milligrams of caffeine.

You can read recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics here.

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