The coroner who examined David Cripe’s body was initially confused.
David had been a perfectly healthy teenager — showing no signs of illness until he suddenly collapsed on the floor of his art classroom on April 26.
He was rushed to the hospital and died a few hours later.
It wasn’t until friends described the South Carolina high schooler’s lunch to investigators that the shocking cause of death became clear.
With three drinks, David had consumed enough caffeine to stop his heart.
“He was a great kid,” David’s father, Sean Cripe, told reporters on Monday. “He didn’t get mixed up in the wrong things. You worry about their safety, their health, especially once they start driving.
But it wasn’t a crash that took his life. Instead it was an energy drink.”
David’s “caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia” occurred after he drank a McDonald’s latte, a large Mountain Dew and a 16-ounce energy drink in the span of two hours.
His parents decided to speak out in an effort to start a conversation about the potentially lethal consequences of drinks many consider perfectly safe.
Though the coroner said he had never personally seen a case like this, it’s not without precedent.
In the past five years — as energy drink consumption has increased by 7% in the United States — the FDA investigated 13 deaths possibly linked to the supplement 5-hour Energy.
Even so, the effects of caffeine are hotly contested amongst coroners and diet experts.
The FDA currently suggests people consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine a day (equal to about four or five cups of coffee). One energy drink alone contains 300 mg.
Caffeine’s popularity in America makes many people forget that it’s actually a powerful drug.
“A tablespoon — about 10 grams — will kill you,” Murray Carpenter, the author of Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts and Hooks Us, told NPR.
Hopefully David’s death will inspire others to treat it as such.