Autopsy Finds 13-Year-Old Who Collapsed, Died In School Gym Had Enlarged Heart

Dec 6, 2017

Paris Byrd, the St. Johns County girl who died Tuesday after collapsing during basketball tryouts at R.J. Murray Middle School had an enlarged heart, the medical examiner found.

Deputies said Paris Byrd went into medical distress in the gymnasium just after 3 p.m. She was taken to the hospital by Fire-Rescue personnel, but she could not be saved, according to our News4Jax partner.

According to the preliminary autopsy, Paris died of hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy and her death was ruled accidental.

Paris' mother, Erika Lowe, said her daughter was excited to be trying out for the first time. Paris was born premature, weighing only 5 pounds.

"I’ve seen so much and I’m so ever thankful and grateful because she left a mark on people’s lives. And it was a positive one," Lowe said. "I’m so proud because my baby girl, she lived her life in these last 13 years. And she did things a lot of kids her age haven’t done."

The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help with Paris' funeral expenses.

"She was an amazing child that had a bright future ahead of her," her third-grade teacher at Crookshank Elementary School wrote on the page. "Help will be needed to get through this trying time. If you are able to support this wonderful family in any way, it would be so appreciated."

Another GoFundMe post post reads: "God has gained an angel." Paris was described  as a kind, respectful child with a beautiful smile who always made the honor roll.

"Paris is one of five kids raised by a single struggling mother who cannot afford a proper memorial," Tara Poveda wrote on the page. "We are asking the community to please come together and help with anything to give this 13- year-old’s mother the funds to have a proper memorial for her beloved daughter."

Wednesday was difficult for Murray Middle students, many of whom shed tears in the hallways when they learned about Paris' death.

Friends described her as a humble and sweet girl. One told our News4Jax partner that Paris' death was an extremely tough loss for anyone who knew her.

Late Tuesday, Principal Tom Schwarm sent an automated phone message to all Murray Middle School parents:

It is with extreme sadness and a heavy heart that I relay the news that one of our very own students has passed away this evening. It is out of respect for the family that I do not relay her name at this time.

Many students, teachers, school staff and parents will be reeling from this news. We will have our crisis team which includes grief counselors, district staff, school counselors and social workers on site tomorrow, and for as long as needed, to support the entire school community.

We will also have materials posted on our website to assist you in speaking to your children about this tragedy.

I ask that you keep all of our Bulldogs in your prayers and for the parents at this time.

Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office are conducting an investigation. The cause of death will be determined by the District Medical Examiner’s Office.