South Carolina high school football player dies at practice

A South Carolina high school football player has died after collapsing at practice, Lexington County officials confirmed Thursday.

Coroner Helen Fisher said Lewis N. Simpkins, 14, of Lexington, was pronounced dead Wednesday night at Lexington Medical Center.

An autopsy was performed Thursday, but Fisher said further studies would have to be conducted to determine the exact cause of Simpkins' death.

Simpkins was a sophomore defensive tackle at River Bluff High School and fell to the ground near the end of a two-hour practice.

Two athletic trainers and an assistant coach began CPR and used a defibrillator while awaiting paramedics, Mary Beth Hill, a spokeswoman for Lexington District One, said in a statement.

Players took water breaks every 15 to 20 minutes and water hoses and coolers were available at all times, Hill said.

The district is working today to provide services to students and staff, she said.

School officials were keeping reporters off campus Thursday.

The school was opening its cafe Thursday afternoon to give students a chance to meet with counselors and psychologists.

Hill said the team was not practicing Thursday but would gather so players, coaches and trainers would share their feelings and support each other.

The team canceled its participation in a pre-season scrimmage Friday night.

Other schools in central South Carolina included messages of support on Facebook and Twitter messages.

"It was a joy to coach Lewis. Such a bright, talented young man. We'll all miss his smile. But I don't believe his spirit is gone," Westwood High School defensive coordinator and former River Bluff assistant James Reynolds posted on Twitter.

University of South Carolina baseball Coach Chad Holbrook shared the emotions in the community. "Today we are all Gators," the River Bluff mascot, Holbrook wrote on Twitter.