Ben Richards, one of three wrestlers to have collapsed from heat-related illness during outdoor workouts last week at Darton State College in Georgia, died Friday in Florida. He was 20 years old.
Family members say Benjamin Richards was pronounced dead at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Shands Hospital in Gainesville. They say doctors declared him dead at 10:30 a.m. Friday, but he was kept on life support until other family members could arrive at the hospital.
Richards, a sophomore, had collapsed in the heat after a five-mile run a week ago Wednesday, along with a teammate. (A third wrestler had collapsed the day before.) Richards was hospitalized in Albany, Ga. in critical condition before being airlifted to Florida overnight Sunday.
According to the college, Athletic Director Mike Kiefer and grief counselors met with the wrestling team after the announcement.
Later Friday afternoon, the school issued a statement: “The Darton State College is deeply saddened by the loss of sophomore student, Ben Richards who passed away today at Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL. Ben was a native of Tampa, Florida and a member of the wrestling team.
“The Darton community sends our thoughts and prayers to Ben’s family and friends. Our hearts go out to them at this difficult time.”
There had been some confusion about Richards’ status, with some media outlets reporting his death Friday afternoon, then pulling those stories after the college had first issued the above statement that announced his passing, then retracted it late Friday night.
Earlier reports indicated that Richards had been battling kidney and liver problems after his collapse.
Funeral arrangements are pending; according to the family, services will be held in Tampa.
Of the other two wrestlers who suffered heat-related illness, one — Jaden Smith, a freshman who collapsed on Wednesday with Richards — was released Friday, while freshman Alex Washington, who became ill in a separate outdoor incident Tuesday, remains hospitalized in Albany.
Founded in 1963 as Albany Junior College, Darton State College recently became a four-year state school. The 5,900-student school, located in southwestern Georgia, launched its wrestling program in 2007.
What you can do to help: Friends of Benjamin Richards are seeking donations to help his family with medical expenses. Donations may be made online at Fundly.com. In addition, friends may post messages of sympathy and support on a “In Memory of Benjamin Richards” Facebook page.
Want to know more about the tragedy as it unfolded? Check out College Wrestling Examiner’s stories on the hospitalized Darton State wrestlers.
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