Coroner: LaPorte football player died from genetic heart condition

2013-09-26T22:40:00Z 2013-10-03T15:18:35Z Coroner: LaPorte football player died from genetic heart conditionStan Maddux Times Correspondent
September 26, 2013 10:40 pm  • 

LAPORTE | A LaPorte High School football player died Wednesday from a genetic heart condition that caused sudden cardiac arrest.

Jake West, 17, collapsed just after 5 p.m. Wednesday running laps during practice at Kiwanis Field.

LaPorte County Deputy Coroner Mark Baker said a Thursday autopsy showed Baker died from arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy.

Baker said the condition is a thinning of the right ventricle walls where the area thinned turns to fat, leaving the heart unable to pump blood.

The result is sudden cardiac arrest, he said.

"It's a very unfortunate tragic death of an outstanding young man, from what I've been told," Baker said.

Baker said the condition is genetic and without symptoms, undetectable during routine physicals.

However, he said there are various tests that can uncover the condition.

Counselors were lending support Thursday to hundreds of students grieving his death.

Several students said many of their classmates were crying in hallways and other areas of the building.

Many of the classes were also half empty from students, including many of his football teammates, leaving for counsel over the loss.

"It's just a bad day. Everyone is upset," said Chase Swanson, 16, a junior.

School counselors and local ministers were made available in the auditorium, where they helped classmates and some staff members deal with their emotions.

"We do have a lot of students taking advantage of that opportunity," Superintendent Rande Thorpe said.

Thorpe described West as popular and kind, taking part in many school activities, including football, where he was a linebacker on the varsity squad, and lacrosse.

"Obviously, the No. 1 thing we're concerned about is the family, and our thoughts and prayers are going out to the family and all of the friends," Thorpe said.

According to the LaPorte Fire Department, West was initially found without a pulse and not breathing Wednesday, but during CPR he regained a pulse and started breathing again, but with some difficulty.

He was transported to IU Health LaPorte hospital, where he died about an hour later.

Florentino Avila, 15, said no one positive word could describe West, whom Avila called "a great kid."

"He was like the nicest kid we ever met," Swanson said.

Payton Cygan, 17, said West never started problems with anyone and helped him with his homework.

"A lot of people are sad. It's real quiet in the school," Cygan said.

According to school officials, the LaPorte football game at 7 p.m. Friday at Merrillville will be played as scheduled.

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