Family Shocked Over 11-Year-Old’s Sudden Death: ‘We’re Waiting To See What Really Happened’

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Tragedy at a local high school. An 11-year-old boy died after he collapsed while warming up for track practice at Miami Northwestern Senior High.

The boy’s family identified him as Kaleb Harris.

He went to Florida International Academy in Opa-locka, where grief counselors were on site Thursday, ready to help his fellow classmates.

“The faculty, staff, administration and board of governors of Florida International Academy expresses their deep condolences to the family,” said Sonia Mitchell, Executive Director, Florida International Academy Charter School. “Our entire community is grief-stricken at this tragic sudden loss of our beloved student. At this time, we are focusing on meeting the needs of the students on campus who are heartbroken.”

His home room teacher told CBS4’s Joan Murray it was a rough day for everyone.

“Crying a lot. A lot suffering inside. A lot of grief for him. A lot of love for him,” Sean Dabish said. “We send our condolences out to his family and his loved ones.”

Parents and children involved in the charter school’s after-school track program were at the track when Harris suddenly collapsed.

Miami Fire Rescue rushed the boy to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

“They put him in a stretcher and they just took him,” Siara Pounds said. “Later in the hospital they said he was dead.”

Harris’ grandmother, Susie Pounds, added, “He was healthy, as far as we know, very healthy. No heart murmur or anything to our knowledge. Right now we are just waiting to see what really happened. Why we no longer have him.”

Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho expressed his sympathy for the family when he heard what had happened.

The Harris family said his sudden collapse and death was a shock. They said he was running around, asking when they would go on a field trip and then later in the day he died.

Kaleb’s cousin, India Jackson, said he was an exceptional kid who had big hopes and dreams. He was also very down to Earth.

“My family would often joke with him about becoming a pastor one day,” said Jackson, ” He had a way of comforting people, no matter the situation.”

Kaleb’s sister, Siara Pounds, said he tried to make everyone happy.

“He always know what to say. He was a class clown. He made everyone laugh, he was so funny,” said Siara Pounds.

Susie Pounds said no one suspected that her grandson had any kind of a health problem.

“He was healthy as far as we know, very healthy. No heart murmur or anything to our knowledge. Right now we are just waiting to see what really happened. Why we no longer have him,” said Pounds.

Harris’ family said Kaleb loved sports, was a dedicated student, a leader at his school and active in the church.

“I feel for the mother and father, I probably wouldn’t be able to take it, if it happened to my kid. Probably wouldn’t know what to do,” said Kerry Smith whose child attends Florida International Academy.

The school’s principal, Sonia Mitchell, said Kaleb was loved by all and his loss is being felt by the students and staff.

“The district has sent crisis team here today (Thursday) and we have counselors and they are meeting with student in small groups,” said Mitchell.

At this time, it is unclear what caused Harris’ death.

Dr. Carlos Hernandez, who did not treat Harris, says there are many possibilities.

“They (doctors) will have to further verify what caused this unfortunate death,” the Palmetto General Hospital pediatric doctor said. “Most sudden deaths in children under the age of 30, and in this case under the age of 12, are usually heart-related and usually related to abnormal rhythms.”

And because of that, Dr. Hernandez says parents of even very young children should consider an EKG.

“If it is a strenuous activity that the child is going to do, I would recommend the electrocardiogram as early as 7 or 8 years of age, but definitely past 10 years of age,” he said.

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