INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WLFI) - A family originally from Lafayette who lost their 16-year-old son far too soon is fighting for the lives of others at the Indiana Statehouse.
Sean and Heidi Cripe's son, Davis, should have been graduating from high school this year. But in April of 2017, this seemingly healthy teenager died from a cardiac arrhythmia induced from drinking too much caffeine too quickly. Davis's father said his son had drank coffee, a Mountain Dew, and an energy drink in about a two and a half hour timespan, but the coroner's report said the energy drink is what pushed his heart over the edge.
"The autopsy showed absolutely no (previous) heart problems," said Heidi. "We even had genetic testing done which showed he had no problems."
"We say he was healthy and that he lost his life and you say 'that's crazy' and that is what most people think but in reality, this is happening a lot," said Sean.
The family is emphasizing that Davis did not have a caffeine overdose, saying it wasn't a matter of how much he consumed, but rather the short amount of time in which he consumed the caffeine that was too much for his body.
"The pain that we have endured since then has been endless," said Cheri Pruitt, Davis's aunt. "It's just painstaking to talk about losing someone that age."
The Cripes moved to South Carolina, but much of their family, like Pruitt's family, still resides around the Lafayette area. Pruitt said she has sons who are just a few months younger than Davis. She said the cousins were like best friends. And now, she is using the loss of her nephew to set an example for her sons, and hopefully for other teens. Pruitt shared that her son even did a persuasive speech to a class about the dangers of energy drinks.
"Just telling them to be aware of what they put in their bodies and the effects it can have," she said.
The Cripes said Davis had dreams of being a drummer one day. But they said he was very aware of substance abuse that is common in the rock and roll world. They said he was openly anti-drugs and was known for helping others who may have struggled with addiction.
"That's why we have to do this, because he would have wanted us to help others," said Heidi.
The family is taking its fight to the Indiana Statehouse. State Senator Ron Alting is authoring a bill that would establish a penalty if a person sells, gives, or distrubtes an energy drink to someone younger than 18-years-old.
"I'll be honest, I did not know the affects of some of these energy drinks until I was asked by a constituent to carry this piece of legislation," said Senator Alting. "And I doubt if very many of my colleagues realize its impact either."
Senator Alting said he hopes this bill does more than just raise the drinking age.
"I think it's important to raise the age, but I also think it's important to bring the awareness, which is equally as important as to what these drinks can cause," he said.
Lack of awareness of the problem energy drinks can cause is something the Cripes also emphasized.
"The vast majority of the public have no idea how dangerous these drinks are," said Sean.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said most energy drinks have the equivalent of three cups of coffee. Some contain ingredients advertised right on the label, like taurine, that have not been tested in children. Meaning no one knows its effects on that age group.
The most recent study on energy drinks was done in 2011 by the CDC. It found that close to 21,000 people visited the emergency room from drinking an energy drink that year and that 68% of adolescents consume these drinks.
The family knows it will be an uphill battle to get this bill on the books, but they're ready for it.
"If we can save just one child's life and one family from going through the pain that we have went through the last two years, it's worth it," said Pruitt.
Senator Alting's bill was referred to the Senate Rules and Legislative Procedure committee last month. That committee currently has no meetings scheduled.
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