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Coroner: Tennis Star Drunk When He Choked to Death

Randall Heffron, the 20-year-old Wofford College tennis player, had a .253 blood alcohol level.

Wofford College tennis player Randall Heffron died of inhaling food he had vomited after a heavy night of drinking, the Spartanburg County coroner confirmed on Thursday afternoon.

Spartanburg County Coroner Rusty Clevenger said alcohol did not kill Heffron, 20, who died at 1:11 a.m. Sept. 10 at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center.

But the coroner confirmed that toxicology revealed Heffron had a .253 blood alcohol level, which is three times the legal definition of intoxication in the state of South Carolina for driving purposes for of-age adults.

"A large mass of food was removed by Emergency Physicians at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center," Clevenger said in a release. "At autopsy the following was recorded: 'Mr. Heffron died as a result of respiratory insufficiency secondary to aspiration of food (so called café coronary).' The elevated ethanol level may have contributed to the vomiting episode which led to extensive aspiration of food.'"

Heffron's death has been ruled as accidental.

Heffron collapsed on the bathroom floor at Shipp Residence Hall at Wofford College just after midnight on Sept. 10.

Read more on Heffron's death, hear 911 calls.

Doctors found a piece of pizza in Heffron's throat while they were attempting to revive him at the hospital, according to his mother Robin Heffron.

That prompted questions made by Wofford College Campus Security and EMS personnel regarding alcohol consumption were correct, and if those assumptions had affected Heffron's treatment.

But while the report confirmed Heffron was intoxicated, it does little to answer questions as to whether or not personnel could have saved his life had they focused on the possibility of an airway obstruction, rather than acute intoxication itself.

Robin Heffron released a statement through the coroner's office.

"The pain of losing a child is compounded by the fact that underage drinking was involved. This tragedy shows that even a gifted athlete such as Randall can succumb to college dorm life and die in an instant if the cause of the medical emergency is not recognized I pray that we can all learn something from this tragedy," she said.

"None of our children are immune to the 'fun' and dangers that come with college life. Parents and students, become familiar with the Heimlich Maneuver.  College officials please spread this message. Post Heimlich Maneuver posters in all the dorms and bathrooms.

"I thank you for your overwhelming support during this sad time."

riley January 01, 2012 at 07:20 PM
I agree with UUU - EVERYONE needs to read this about Wofford. Does anyone have any idea who wrote these comments on Unigo?
riley January 01, 2012 at 07:28 PM
I understand that the background of the campus safety officers on campus is military in training and wondered if anyone knew what qualified them to investigate a death, rape or any other serious or potential criminal event on campus? More importantly, what qualifies them to render medical care in the event of a medical emergency? It sounds like campus safety made the 911 call and then got the investigation back as the investigating arm. I wondered who would have to make the decision to have an outside agency investigate? This poor grieving mother/family? The Board of Trustees? The Coroner's office? Just thought you might have the inside track.
Robert January 02, 2012 at 01:50 AM
The problem is, and always has been, the elitist attitude surrounding Wofford College. Wofford students have been allowed for years to break laws that all others are held accountable. Currently there are billboards around Spartanburg showing individuals that have been fined over $10,000 for allowing underage drinking. Students at other schools are arrested in their own apartments and homes for underage drinking. But at Wofford, it has always been known that it was freely allowed on campus. Now an underage Wofford student dies and there is no investigation into where he obtained the alcohol. Students at SCC, USCU, and SMC have been charged for open container, handing a beer to another, and even having unopened alcohol in their possession. Bar owners are harassed over underage drinking, with the city sending in underage undercover agents with fake IDs to arrest bartenders and bar owners. Again the hypocrisy known as Wofford defines the inequalities in Spartanburg, proving once it again that in Spartanburg it all comes down to who you know. And speaking of who you know, rumor is that it is widely known who provided the alcohol, but he is a "good boy" so nothing will be done.
Wofford Graduate February 10, 2012 at 08:47 PM
I think you should all be ashamed of your comments. I graduated from Wofford College and spent four of my best years there. I heard many things about Randall, having not known him, and he was very well liked among all of the students. This is a tragedy but shifting blame onto the school and bad-mouthing Wofford is certainly not the path you should take. Before you turn and judge Wofford I think it might be in your best interest to meet some of the graduates. They are successful, caring, loving, and well respected members of society. Simply reading a review from someone online who obviously was not a best fit at Wofford and then going off of solely his or her opinion is ignorant. There is a place for everyone at Wofford, Christian, Jewish, Drinker, Non-Drinker, athlete, greek, academically gifted or not and to bad mouth a great school like Wofford looking in from the outside is a disgrace. I am very saddened that many of us will never get to know Randall and I think about and pray for his family a lot. But before all of you go and bad mouth the school you should think about the love Randall had for it and stop. It will forever be a great part of my life and I know it will for Randall as well. God bless him and his family.
Dawn Stewart February 13, 2012 at 09:40 AM
Makes you wonder what is taught, if anything, at that school. To quote Jesse from her review: "The Wofford social scene is an extremely dangerous one, with kids binge drinking and almost overdosing every single weekend. But doing those things goes against the honor code, so Wofford sweeps it under the rug. It's only a matter of time before someone DIES and Wofford is SUED, based on the way that things are being run at Wofford College. It's SHOCKING that it hasn't happened yet. The school is a lawsuit waiting to happen." She sure did indicate that the lack of controls on campus would have serious consequences. And now someone who says they are a Wofford graduate is defending the lack of controls, defending the lack of assistance to this student, defending the lack of an investigation as to who purchased the alcohol that led to this death, and defending the failure of the policy that students could not call 911 when in need of medical attention (keep all issues on campus and out of the news). Would not a wise graduate be asking for changes in policy, and a complete investigation into the events so as TO PREVENT this from ever happening again on campus?

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