Georgia high school student dies after getting trapped in wrestling mats in gym

Authorities say a south Georgia high school student apparently climbed atop an upright roll of wrestling mats, fell into a center opening and died after he became trapped inside.

Lowndes County sheriff's officials said Monday that 17-year-old Lowndes High School student Kendrick Johnson became lodged inside the roll of mats, upside down. His body was found Friday in the high school's old gym.

Investigators say Johnson, who played football for the school, may have been trying to retrieve a shoe that fell into the mat.


Authorities say no foul play is suspected. Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine tells The Valdosta Times that an autopsy, his investigators and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found no signs of a struggle.

He was upside down in the mat and is believed to have passed out due to the blood flow to his head for an extended period of time, which could ultimately lead to a stroke or heart failure, the report says.

Although investigators do not believe foul play was involved, the sheriff said he and his investigators will continue interviewing students and friends who have additional information.

Kenneth Johnson, the teen’s father, told WALB he believes his son was murdered.

"I want to express how did my son go missing during school hours in broad daylight? We know our son was murdered while he was at Lowndes High School. We do know that," Johnson told the station.

Anastasia Roe, the teen's aunt, said her nephew was a good student who ran track and played football. She said he was the life of the party, but reserved when he met new people.

She said information that the family received from the school and the sheriff's office about how the teen was found was inconsistent, and that lead to some in the community to ask questions.

"First we heard he was on the floor near the mat, then we hear he was wrapped in the mat," she said. "It's suspicious."

A call from to the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office was not immediately returned.

Johnson reported his son missing late Thursday night and his body was discovered Friday morning. The school was placed on lockdown after the discovery, reported.

"How can you go on when you have a beloved child who wakes up everybody in the house and makes a laugh out of everything, how can you go on? It's hard," Johnson told the station.

Fox News' Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report

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