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Coroner: Kent State football player likely died from the heat

Published: June 14, 2017 6:18 PM
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Kent State University football player Tyler Heintz likely died as a result of "hyperthermia," a dangerously high body temperature, following practice with the Golden Flashes on Tuesday morning at Dix Stadium.

Portage County Coroner Dr. Dean DePerro said preliminary autopsy results showed Heintz, 18, had "a very high body temperature."

As to "what led up to that, we're still putting that together," DePerro said Wednesday. He said his investigators still are following up with questions and interviews, following the result of the autopsy performed by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office.

Hyperthermia can result from exercising in high temperatures and high humidity, DePerro said. The body "stops perspiring" and can't regulate its own temperature, leading to overheating and life-threatening symptoms that can include shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting.

An assistant KSU athletic trainer who called 911 requesting an ambulance on the field at Dix Stadium told an emergency dispatcher Heintz was having trouble breathing and was "in and out of consciousness," according to the call, released Wednesday by Kent police.

The caller requested an ambulance to the field at Dix Stadium for "an athlete from a workout, he's having difficulty breathing, in and out of consciousness."

She told the dispatcher Heintz was 18 years old and 300 pounds, and said it was the team's second summer practice.

DePerro reiterated that the results are preliminary, and that other factors may be involved. It may take weeks or months for final autopsy results, he added.

"There are a lot of young boys, girls, men and women who were out in the weather he was, and for some reason his body reacted differently," DePerro said.

Heintz' body has been released to a funeral home, he said.

DePerro noted that the final autopsy report and death certificate for KSU football player Jason Bitsko, who was found dead Aug. 20, 2014, in his off-campus apartment in Brimfield, took nine months to complete. His death was a result of cardiomegaly — an enlarged heart found at autopsy to be approximately twice the size of a normal heart, which led to a significant risk for an abnormal heartbeat, DePerro said in December 2014.

Additional resources, including a University of Washington researcher who also helped probe Bitsko's death, may be utilized in the investigation, DePerro said.


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