Georgia Cheerleader Dies During Workout on Track

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
June 11, 2019Updated: June 11, 2019

A Georgia high school student and captain of the cheerleading squad has died after losing consciousness during a summer workout on the school’s track.

Elyse Purefoy, 17, was at Arabia Mountain High School in DeKalb County when she collapsed during morning training, Channel 2 Action News reported. She was rushed to DeKalb Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead.

Her father, Hank Purefoy, told the news outlet his daughter was headed into her senior year.

“Elyse was just very determined, hard working, she was a 3.9 [GPA] student,” father Hank Purefoy told Channel 2. “Like they said, she had all the accolades. She worked very hard this year; she outworked everybody.”

“She’s a beautiful spirit,” her father said, Fox 5 reported. “I’m going to miss her,”

Authorities have not yet announced the cause of death.

The teenager’s brother was cited by ABC News as saying that officials were considering severe dehydration or an undiagnosed heart condition.

“The entire DeKalb County School District community, and especially the Arabia Mountain High School family, mourns the passing of a member of the school’s dance team,” DeKalb County School District said in a statement, cited by WSB-TV’s Michael Seiden on Twitter. “Our hearts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.”

A woman claiming to be one of the first responders on the scene commented on Channel 2’s Facebook post reporting on the teenager’s tragic death.

“Being one of the first responders to her today, I can say this one is going to stick with me for a while. I prayed so hard for her on the way to the hospital. Many prayers to her family, friends and to the brave lady who was with me in the ambulance,” wrote Cynthia Gifford Ballew.

Beth McDaniels Stevens responded: “I lost my 16-year-old daughter in a fall from her horse – the first responders were all in tears when they arrived at the ER. One fellow was straddled across her body, still trying to revive her. I can’t thank you enough for the job you do and that you do it with so much compassion. I promise you, a parent couldn’t ask for more. My deepest condolences to this young lady’s family – and God be with you too.”

The family have set up a GoFundMe page to help cover funeral costs for their deceased beloved.

“Today started just like any other day. I made you breakfast and lunch, and hugged you and told you to have fun at dance training. I smiled as I saw you and your brother get in the car to drive you to practice, but who could have known that you would not be coming home to us.

“The doctors did their best to bring you back but your heart just stopped working.

“Elyse you are a beautiful spirit. And we will miss you so much.

“Thank you to everyone who has called, prayed and shown support during our time of bereavement. There are no words to describe the hurt and loss we feel.”

Mortality Figures in the United States

According to 2017 data from the CDC, the 10 leading causes of death in the United States were: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide.

death rate statistics
Age-adjusted death rates for the 10 leading causes of death in the United States for the years 2016 and 2017. (CDC)

The third leading cause of death, unintentional injuries, further breaks down as follows: the most common are unintentional poisoning deaths (58,335), followed by motor vehicle traffic deaths (40,327), and unintentional fall deaths in third place (34,673).

The total number of emergency department visits for unintentional injuries in the United States in 2017 was 29.2 million, according to the CDC.

The 10 leading causes accounted for 74 percent of all deaths in the United States in 2017.

Americans More Likely to Die From Opioid Overdose Than a Car Crash

For the first time in history, accidental opioid overdose has surpassed motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of unintentional deaths, according to a new report by the National Safety Council (NSC).

Americans have a 1 in 96 chance of dying from an opioid overdose, while the probability of dying in a motor vehicle accident is 1 in 103. The council’s analysis is based on 2017 mortality data by the National Center for Health Statistics, which is part of the CDC.

“The nation’s opioid crisis is fueling the Council’s grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl,” the NSC said in a statement on Jan. 14.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people in the United States die of an opioid overdose each day, while the cost of prescription opioid misuse in the country is $78.5 billion a year. This includes the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

“We’ve made significant strides in overall longevity in the United States, but we are dying from things typically called accidents at rates we haven’t seen in half a century,” said Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the NSC.

“We cannot be complacent about 466 lives lost every day. This new analysis reinforces that we must consistently prioritize safety at work, at home, and on the road to prevent these dire outcomes,” he said.

Janita Kan contributed to this report.

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