An eighth-grade student at Fulton Jr. High School in O'Fallon died after falling ill Wednesday during training for his basketball club.
St. Clair County Coroner Rick Stone identified the boy as Demetrius "D.J" Simpson, 13. Stone said an autopsy conducted Thursday revealed that Simpson died of "hereditary heart disease."
Simpson was playing for a team organized by the Amateur Athletic Union in the junior high gym, according to District 90 Interim Superintendent Douglas Wood. Simpson excused himself to go to the restroom during practice and did not come back.
"Someone went into the restroom and found him in distress," Wood said. "He was breathing and had a heartbeat. But he was obviously in distress so he was taken to the hospital."
Coaches and teammates apparently had no idea something was wrong when the student left the gym to go to the restroom.
Wood said the school principal called to check with the student's family later in the evening and was disturbed to hear the young man had passed away.
"We want to express our deepest sympathies to the family," Wood said. "We have counselors and social workers in place to help our students deal with their grief. It's a terribly sad thing to see a young adult who is so full of life pass away suddenly."
Wood didn't know Simpson personally, but said he's been told "he was a wonderful, outstanding young man with a bright future."
The metro-east has been under a heat advisory for the last two days. But Wood said heat was not an issue in the air-conditioned junior high gym. Wood described the gym as "quite cool."
O'Fallon Police Department Lt. Rob Schmidtke said an emergency call came in to O'Fallon police and ambulance crews at 7:11 p.m. Wednesday. A few minutes after officers reached Fulton Jr. High, at 307 Kyle Road, Simpson was taken to an area hospital by ambulance.
"I don't think the heat or over-exertion were an issue," Schmidtke said. "There don't seem to be any other contributing factors other than a medical issue."
This is the third District 90 student to die within the past several years, Wood said. One was an eighth grader who took his own life on railroad tracks in town in 2008. The other was a student who died after battling cancer for several years; he had graduated from junior high and was in high school at the time he died.
A funeral service for Simpson will be held at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Marie Schaefer Elementary School, 505 S. Cherry St. in O'Fallon. Burial will follow at O'Fallon City Cemetery. Wolfersberger Funeral Home in O'Fallon is handling the arrangements.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or call 618-239-2626.