Massachusetts high school student Harris Wolobah died Friday after ingesting a particularly spicy chip as part of the "One Chip Challenge" social media trend, Fox News reported. The 14-year-old left school early after falling ill and later died at home.
No cause of death has been released, but the boy's mother, Lois Wolobah, believes it was related to the Paqui chip that he ate that day at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester. The family picked Harris up from school, and he began to feel better once he got home.
However, at about 4:30, his brother found him unresponsive shortly before basketball tryouts were to begin. Harris was rushed to a local hospital, where he was declared deceased.
Grief counselors will be available for students at the high school where Harris had just begun his sophomore year. Worcester Schools Superintendent Rachel Monarrez called Harris a "rising star" in a statement released Sunday.
"It is with a heavy heart I share that we lost a rising star, Harris Wolobah, who was a sophomore scholar at Doherty Memorial High School. As a mother and educator, I cannot imagine how hard this is on his family, friends, and teachers," Monarrez said in a Sunday statement.
"My heart goes out to all who knew and loved him," she added. The challenge is promoted by Paqui, the company that makes the chips, on its website.
The company dares customers to eat a chip and then refrain from anything that would mitigate the burning, such as taking a drink. "How long can you last before you spiral out?" the company dares on its website.
However, Paqui also mentions on its website that the challenge is for adults only and that adverse incidents can occur. The company advises consumers to seek medical help if any "difficulty breathing, fainting or extended nausea" occurs.
The chip is made with Naga Viper Pepper and Carolina Reaper Pepper for a "truly twisted experience," according to its packaging. There is also a warning online to "wash your hands with soap and do not touch eyes or other sensitive areas" after coming into contact with the chip.
Last year, a company spokesperson said that Pacqui takes "safety very seriously and have worked hard to ensure our products are properly and clearly labeled with allergen and safety information" during a television appearance. "It is our intent that consumers take on this challenge with a full understanding of what it is and if it is appropriate for them," the company claimed.
However, the boy's family doesn't believe the company has done enough and wants the chips banned, Boston.com reported. Although there isn't evidence that Harris died from ingesting the chip, the National Capital Poison Center warns consumers that capsaicin, the substance that causes the heat sensation, is harmful in large amounts.
"I pray to God that no parents will go through what I’m going through," his mother said. "I don’t want to see anybody hurting the way I’m hurting. I miss my son so much," Lois Wolobah added.
"We’ve been having sleepless nights," Amos Wolobah, Harris’ father, said of the tragedy. "He’s not going to come back," the distraught dad later added.
The chip challenge is meant to be good clean fun for all of those involved. However, like many social media trends, it has been picked up by young people who may not be able to handle the physical toll it takes on their bodies, and one young man may have paid the ultimate price for that mistake.