UPDATE: The Medical Examiner’s office ruled Thomas Wheeler’s cause of death was Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia.
CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) –A heartbreaking day for parents who sent their son to school thinking he’d return.
A student inside the gym at Caroline County High School says Thomas Wheeler II had just finished running pacers, also called wind sprints, before propping himself up on the bleachers then collapsing on the gym floor.
“It’s real surprising, but our time is not the Lord’s time,” said Thomas’ cousin Jamal Moore.
Jamal reflected Tuesday on a young life taken too early, and says without a doubt, he knows where he has gone.
“He was dedicated to the church, he had a positive attitude and was respectful to everybody,” he said.
Classmate Madrice Hamn said Thomas was running pacers in gym, but that he didn’t look good.
“He was sitting up against the bleachers and the boys were asking was he alright because he was breathing hard,” Madrice said. “I went in the weight room and came back out and he was on the floor.”
Paramedics and deputies arrived three minutes after a 911 call was made.
“They worked on him for several minutes,” said Sheriff Tony Lippa. “I know Deputy Ben Duecet and Investigative Sergeant Travis Nutter several times tried to stabilize him to get him into the ambulance.”
The Caroline County sophomore was rushed to Spotsylvania Regional where he died.
Grief counselors Pastors Greg Webber and Duane Fields say they’ll help classmates cope with the tragic loss.
“We do what these kids ask us to do,” said Fields. “We are their liaison between them and school administration. Bottom line is, we are here to help them grieve.”
“It’s hard to explain why things happen, why bad things happen to good people,” said Webber. “It doesn’t mean god causes it. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a loving god.”
Thomas was described by several who knew him as an athletic young man with a lot of love for the Washington Redskins, with one picture of him captured at the team’s summer training camp.
His close-knit small community now mourns for his parents’ loss, who sent their son to school, never imagining he wouldn’t come home.
“It’ll be OK,” said his cousin Jamal. “God is in control.”
Lippa told me no foul play was suspected. Sources told me Thomas had just had recently completed a physical, and was getting ready to try out for the Caroline High basketball team.