Autopsy to be done on girl who collapsed, died at school

SHAFTER, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - The sudden death of an eighth-grade student at Richland Junior High in Shafter is similar to an episode that happened at Cecil Middle School in Delano in January.

Both students suffered sudden cardiac arrest while in PE class. Both died. Both schools did not have an automated external defibrillator, or AED, on hand.

On Thursday, a 14-year-old girl at Richland Junior High School was participating in her physical education class.

"We were just doing jumping jacks," said fellow student Myrka Duran.

Duran said her classmate asked the teacher permission to get some water and then collapsed.

"We looked, and she was right on the floor, and they they called the nurses and then the ambulance," said Duran.

Staff called 911 and were lead through steps in trying to revive the girl, who was not breathing.

"We can't get her to wake up," said the unidentified caller to the 911 operator.

Staff began doing chest compressions on the student while an ambulance was on the way. The 911 operator then asked if the school has access to a defibrillator?

"Is there an AED there?" said the 911 operator.

"No, we don't have an AED," was the response from the caller, speaking with the 911 operator.

Shafter police officers arrived on scene and did have an AED and started using it on the student. An ambulance later arrived and the student was taken to Mercy Hospital Southwest in Bakersfield.

But, it was too late. The student died while en route to the hospital.

Bakersfield resident Corinne Ruiz has been lobbying schools to install AEDs on campus. She has run into opposition from the schools, but has had some success in getting the life-saving devices into others.

"I just wish the school districts would realize and understand the importance of these defibrillators," said Ruiz. "I don't understand how much more I can say and do."

Duran described her classmate as friendly and a good student. Losing her so unexpectedly was a shock to her and everyone else.

"I think it's pretty sad, because she only lived with her cousin and grandmother, cause her dad passed away," the classmate said.

An autopsy is pending, and the Kern County coroner's office will release the girl's name and official cause of death.