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  • 9-year-old dies on soccer field

    Posted on Wed, Aug. 04, 2004
    9-year-old dies on soccer field

    Associated Press


    ANTIOCH, Calif. - Authorities are trying to figure out why an apparently healthy 9-year-old girl suddenly collapsed and died after her first soccer practice.

    Ariana Williams, who was a swimmer and took karate lessons, collapsed and died Monday night shortly after her first soccer practice at Grant Elementary School in Antioch.

    "My only baby - and I saw it all," said her mother, Sheila Washington. "She was my best little friend. She was my whole life. I don't know what I'm going to do without her."

    Two autopsies Tuesday could not determine a cause of death, Sgt. Daryl England of the Contra Costa County coroner's officer told the San Francisco Chronicle. Authorities still plan to conduct further tests.

    Williams, an active child, was determined to be healthy at a physical in June, her mother said.

    The weather was cool Monday night and Williams was not injured before she collapsed.

    "At the end of practice, I called them all in," coach Ryan Frits told the Chronicle. "She ran right up. Then she just fell over. Everybody thought she was kind of goofing off. We said, `Get up.' She made a small effort to lift herself and then completely went limp and fell."

    A firefighter and police officer, who were parents of two of the kids, immediately gave Williams CPR before paramedics arrived. Williams was taken to Sutter Delta Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

  • #2
    Re: 9-year-old dies on soccer field

    9-year-old collapses, dies at soccer practice

    Charles Burress, Chronicle Staff Writer
    Wednesday, August 4, 2004

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    A bright, cheerful and seemingly healthy 9-year-old girl suddenly collapsed and died for no apparent reason Monday night in Antioch right after her first experience on a soccer team.

    As her horror-stricken mother watched, Ariana Williams -- an active swimmer, Girl Scout and karate student from Oakley -- collapsed at Grant Elementary School just after the team's first practice, witnesses said. Despite receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation, she was pronounced dead about an hour after being rushed to the hospital.

    "My only baby -- and I saw it all," said her forlorn mother, Sheila Washington, 33, a pharmacy network auditor for Blue Shield of California. "She was my best little friend. She was my whole life. I don't know what I'm going to do without her."

    Stunned officials of the Diablo Youth Soccer League said they'd never had such a tragedy.

    "We've never had a fatality in this league that I'm aware of," said President Roy Immekus, who's been with the organization for about 15 years.

    Two autopsies completed Tuesday failed to reveal what had killed Ariana, said Sheriff's Sgt. Daryl England of the Contra Costa County coroner's office. The office will analyze toxicology and microscopic tissue test results to try to determine the cause of death, he said.

    Ariana had just joined the Orioles, a team for 8- and 9-year-old girls in the Diablo league. It was her first team sport, but she had been physically active, enjoying karate since kindergarten, "always swimming" and participating in her third year of Girl Scouts, her mother said. Ariana had no known health problems and had just passed a physical exam in June.

    "He (the doctor) said she was really healthy," Washington said.

    After a relatively light practice that included dribbling exercises and two scrimmages, the 13 members of the team were called together around 7:25 p. m. by Ryan Frits, a veteran league coach standing in for the team's regular coach, who was out of town.

    "At the end of practice, I called them all in," Frits said. "She ran right up. Then she just fell over. Everybody thought she was kind of goofing off. We said, 'Get up.' She made a small effort to lift herself and then completely went limp and fell." Frits broke down in tears as he described the tragedy.

    "I'd known the kid 90 minutes, and I found myself praying, 'Take my heart and leave her alone,' " said Frits, who has two daughters on the team.

    The weather was "nice and cool," and Ariana had not been hit by the ball or sustained any injuries during practice, Frits said.

    "She was so happy out there," he said.

    Among the parents were a firefighter and a police officer who administered CPR before paramedics took over, Frits said. They found no pulse, said Tim Palmer, a battalion chief with the Contra Costa County Fire District. She was pronounced dead at Sutter Delta Medical Center at 8:37 p.m., the coroner's office said.

    Monday also had been Ariana's first day as a fifth-grader at her new private school in Brentwood, Dainty Center/Willow Wood School. She entered the school in a special summer program.

    "It's been a shock to all of us," said school employee Beverly Wallace.

    School administrators provided grief counseling for students Tuesday. They also set up a fund for contributions toward funeral expenses. Donations can be sent to the school or the Wells Fargo Bank in Brentwood.

    The school issued a statement recalling the friendly, enthusiastic student with the "contagious smile" who had proclaimed Monday her "best day of school ever."

    Ariana, who lived with her mother and grandmother, Loreli Washington, "was a very sweet girl, and intelligent beyond her years," her mother said. "She always said things that made people think. She touched everybody she spoke to. She always had a smile on her face."

    Ariana loved traveling, including trips she took to Paris, Disney World, New York, Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum, her mother said.

    "She was always wanting to know about everything, different cultures and different people," the mother said. "She never judged people by what other people said. She made up her own mind."

    Ariana persuaded her mother to follow her dream of getting her pharmacy degree, which she is pursuing at Cal State Hayward.

    "She pushed me to do it," her mother said. "She was like, 'You go,' saying she and her grandmother would take care of things. She was an angel. It's just sad the world won't be able to experience her."

    Ariana's funeral will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at Brentwood Funeral Home, 839 First St., Brentwood.

    E-mail Charles Burress at [email protected].

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