Seventeen-year-old Latasha Johnson died last night after taking part in the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge,’ according to Boston Police Department spokesperson Cheryl Fiandaca.
“It is with sadness and regret that we have indeed ruled this a very tragic, unimaginable accident,” said Fiandaca. “Ms. Johnson was simply trying to help raise money for ALS along with her friends, but she went into hypothermia after pouring a bucket of ice water over her head, and then not changing out of her wet clothes for several hours. The hypothermia went untreated and unfortunately resulted in her death, autopsy pending.”
Latasha Johnson and her friends, all soon-to-be seniors at Cristo Rey Boston High School, were taking part in the challenge with the intentions of raising money for ALS. One of the friends, eighteen-year-old Naomi Sanchez, told police that they all dumped buckets of ice water over their heads at the same time while another friend recorded video of the incident on her cell phone. Sanchez said that all the girls were laughing at Johnson who had been shivering for more than two hours afterwards and eventually fell asleep, so they just left her there on a chair in the backyard.
It was not until it was discovered that Johnson began to look very pale that the others decided to call 911. Sadly, it was too late, and Johnson had succumbed to hypothermia.
“The Boston Police Department and several medical experts studied several videos captured by the friends diligently. One video was from the actual challenge, when they dumped the water over their heads, and others were taken while the girls laughed at Johnson shivering over the next couple hours,” Fiandaca said. “Some of the videos were posted online but have since been removed, and all cell phones were confiscated for the pending investigation of criminal intent.”
Police are investigating the idea that the other girls teased Johnson into staying in her wet clothes, freezing, while they all were ‘allowed’ to change their clothes. Reports say that videos posted to YouTube by the girls showed they had all changed into dry clothes or new bikinis, while Johnson did not.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has become a viral sensation over the last couple of weeks, started by former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also know as ALS, and most commonly Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Frates and his family started the movement via Facebook and Twitter as a creative way to spread ALS awareness throughout social media, often using the hashtag #IceBucketChallenge. It has since gone viral and has spiked ALS donations by over 1000% since July 31st.
“This is a ‘creative’ way to spread ALS awareness via social media and in communities nationwide,” said Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association just days ago. “We thank Pete Frates and his family for getting so many people involved in spreading the word about ALS.”
After posting their ice bucket videos to social media, participants nominate others to take the plunge and keep the cycle going. If those challenged don’t accept within 24 hours, they’re asked to donate to the ALS Association.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has been accepted by many celebrities such as Ethel Kennedy, who has since challenged President Obama to take part. Matt Lauer did it live on the Today show, and Martha Stewart, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and many others have all taken part in the challenge.
The parents of Latasha Johnson ask the public to not let their daughter die in vain.
“She was just trying to raise money for this incredible cause. She loved people and, unfortunately, loved the dumb things she saw on the internet. She never knew how dangerous this stunt count be. Please, we beg you to donate to the ALS Association on her behalf. Let her good deed have meaning,” said her grief-stricken father, Mohana Johnson.