Officials Say A South Carolina Teen Died From Drinking Too Much Caffeine

by Christina Marfice
Image via Davis Allen Cripe/Instagram

Within hours of his death, Davis Allen Cripe had Mountain Dew, coffee and an energy drink

Within two hours, reports say, 16-year-old Davis Allen Cripe drank a large diet Mountain Dew, a McDonald’s cafe latte and an energy drink. Then he collapsed in a classroom and died.

A high school student in South Caroline, Cripe was pronounced dead at Palmetto Health Parkridge Hospital on April 26. Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said Monday in a news conference that caffeine was to blame for the teen’s death.

“It was so much caffeine at the time of his death that it caused his arrhythmia,” Watts said, adding that the arrhythmia was the cause of Cripe’s death, and that there was no evidence that he had any kind of condition that would cause his heart problems other than the caffeine.

Recent research published in The Journal of the American Heart Association showed that energy drinks can cause harmful changes in a person’s blood pressure and heart function, and those changes are far more extreme than in people who consume as much caffeine from drinks like coffee or tea, pointing to likely dangerous effects from the other ingredients found in energy drinks. Based on that research, it’s probably not safe to let kids have energy drinks at all, let alone with other caffeinated beverages in a short time period, like Cripe had.

“We lost Davis from a totally legal substance,” Watts said at the news conference. “It was so much caffeine at the time of his death, that it caused his arrhythmia. These drinks can be very dangerous.”

“These drinks can be very dangerous,” Watts said. “I’m telling my friends and family don’t drink them. The purpose here today is not to slam Mountain Dew, not to slam cafe lattes, or energy drinks. But what we want to do is to make people understand that these drinks — this amount of caffeine, how it’s ingested, can have dire consequences. And that’s what happened in this case.”

Cripe’s father, Sean Cripe, added, “It wasn’t a car crash that took his life. Instead, it was an energy drink. Parents, please talk to your kids about these energy drinks.”

According to the FDA, caffeine is safe up to 400 mg at a time, or the amount found in about five cups of coffee. A 16-ounce Mountain Dew contains about 72 mg of caffeine, and some energy drinks can contain 200 mg or more.