Police said Harris Wolobah, who was a 14-year-old 10th-grade student at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, Massachusetts, died on the same day that he participated in the viral social media trend known as the “One Chip Challenge”.
That challenge, which the Paqui brand debuted in 2016, involves eating what is claimed to be one of the spiciest tortilla chips in the world. Paqui chips are made by Amplify Snack Brands, Inc, a subsidiary of The Hershey Company.
Investigators said it appears Wolobah ate the chip Friday and died later that day. Authorities said it remains unclear if the food contributed to his death.
Wolobah’s family said he was at school when he ate the chip and went to the nurse’s office before going home.
The family said that Wolobah fainted shortly after arriving at his house. First responders were called to the home and rushed him to a local hospital, where he ultimately died.
“As a mother and educator, I cannot imagine how hard this is on his family, friends and teachers. My heart goes out to all who knew and loved him,” Dr Rachel Monarrez, superintendent of Worcester Public Schools, said in a statement.
“He was the kind of kid who would work really hard,” said Douglas Hill, Wolobah’s basketball coach for the St Bernard’s Church team.
“I feel for the family. I feel for him, and this is just one of those situations where it’s not his fault.”
A warning on the Paqui website states that people who partake in the One Chip Challenge should seek medical assistance if they experience difficulty breathing, fainting or extended nausea.
Lauren Rice, chief of paediatric emergency medicine at Tufts Medical Center, said when someone ingests something that spicy, it can cause side effects that range from mouth or lip burning to heart issues.
“Sometimes, we see people with a lot of chest pain, or they’ll experience palpitations, as well,” Rice said.
NewsCenter 5 contacted Paqui about the incident, but has yet to receive a reply.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is now working to determine the cause of Wolobah’s death.
The district is working with the school to provide grief support to students and staff who knew Wolobah.
Hill said St Bernard’s Church will host a co-ed basketball workout on Saturday, September 9, in honor of Wolobah.
All proceeds will go directly to the Wolobah family.