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18.06.2005 Diaspora News

Ghanaian Pickerington student who collapsed ....

The Columbus Dispatch

...after football training session shocks friends and family With Jesus in their hearts and tears in their eyes, the mourners sang religious hymns and clapped to old Ghanaian songs to remember a life that ended too soon.

Family and friends of 15-yearold Kwame Afriyie gathered at a solemn celebration yesterday, a day after the teenager's heart stopped after a football practice at Pickerington Central High School.

"We are mourning and celebrating Kwame's life," said the Rev. John Bassaw, of Ebenezer United Methodist Church, where Afriyie's family are parishioners.

"We are mourning, but we are also dancing, clapping, drumming and making life enjoyable so that we remember that death is not the end of everything."

The teen's sudden death has shocked family and friends, who don't understand how a healthy boy collapsed after running sprints for a morning conditioning practice Monday.

"I was in my room and he said he was going to practice," recalled his mother, Anita Idun. "He looked fine."

During the 1- to 1½-hour conditioning sessions, Principal Chuck Kemper said players typically spend most of the time in the weight room, followed by 20 minutes of sprints.

Kemper said Monday's practice was not too strenuous: About 50 football players spent almost 30 minutes in the weight room, which doesn't have air-conditioning but is cooled with fans. Afterward, they ran about 14 sprints.

According to a Pickerington police report, defensive coach Jeff Lomonico saw Afriyie limping and asked if he wanted to take a break. Afriyie insisted on continuing the sprints. Shortly afterward, he was on his knees and said he was dizzy.

Coaches and players carried him to the water fountain and huddled around, said Tim McGougan, a sophomore.

Afriyie collapsed about 10:15 a.m.

"They took him to the water fountain and tried to cool him down," said McGougan, 14. "We thought that he wasn't very conditioned. That's all we thought."

During the practice, the weather at nearby Rickenbacker Airport was 75 degrees and the humidity was 78 percent.

When paramedics arrived, Afriyie was breathing but losing consciousness, the police report said.

"He kind of passed out. He's laying on his side. He's kind of going in and out . . . hearing us and not hearing us," said an unidentified man who called 911 from the field.

The heat and humidity seemed worse at practices last week, when players began the summer-conditioning workouts, McGougan said.

Afriyie did not attend last week's practices, McGougan said, but they weren't mandatory.

"I didn't think it was very bad," he said of Monday's weather. "It was hot; I've seen practices in worse than that."

Players weren't wearing pads or heavy equipment.

Afriyie's uncle Ebo Ghartey said his nephew's heart had slowed, but he was stabilized at Mount Carmel East. Afriyie was then transferred to Children's Hospital, where his heart stopped.

The family is awaiting the results of an autopsy done at the hospital. They were told that would take four to six weeks.

"He had a smile on his face all the time. He was friends with everyone," said varsity football coach Jay Sharrett, who attended the service at the home of Afriyie's parents in Canal Winchester.

Instead of practicing yesterday, coaches talked about Kwame's death.

"Many of the players came for answers," Sharrett said. "But I couldn't give them any."

Practice will resume today. But Sharrett doesn't know what to expect from a team mourning the loss of one of their own.

"This has really torn through the heart of the team," he said. "You don't know where to go from here."

Friends and family described Afriyie as an avid football and basketball player who had dreams of going professional.

He was born in New Jersey to parents who came here from Ghana. He was a helpful son and a caring older brother to two brothers and a sister, Ghartey said.

"He didn't know how to say no," said his father, Ebenezer Idun.