UT athlete dies during workout at campus track; preliminary report blames acute heart condition


An acute heart condition aortic dissection is responsible for the death of University of Toledo basketball player Haris Charalambous, according to a preliminary autopsy report released today by the Lucas County Coroner s Office.

Specifically, the curved portion of Mr. Charalambous aorta, a large blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body, ruptured and bled into the sac surrounding the heart, causing suppression of heart function.

Mr. Charalambous, a 21-year-old from Manchester, England, collapsed about 11 a.m. yesterday after the start of basketball conditioning drills on the university s outdoor track.

Coroner Dr. James Patrick, who reviewed the autopsy findings, said further testing is needed to know the exact cause of Mr. Charalambous heart condition, and how long he may have had it. That testing will take several weeks, he said.

How and why this occurred, we re still working on, Dr. Patrick said. We re still in the process of assembling all of the information.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com

The University of Toledo community is searching for answers after Haris Charalambous died yesterday not long after collapsing after the start of basketball conditioning drills on the university's outdoor track next to Savage Hall.

Mr. Charalambous, a 21-year-old from Manchester, England, reportedly collapsed around 11 a.m. Athletic trainers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived at the scene and transported him to Toledo Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"They were just in the very beginning of a routine workout when this happened," said Lawrence J. Burns, UT director of enrollment services, marketing, and communications. "The university and team are family, and when something like this happens, not only is it a tragedy, it's shocking and it's devastating."

The Lucas County Coroner's Office is scheduled to conduct an autopsy today, and preliminary results of the autopsy could be available by the afternoon, said Steve Kahle, an investigator with the coroner's office.

UT men's head basketball coach Stan Joplin was on a recruiting trip in Phoenix yesterday and was not available for comment, but was expected to return to Toledo this morning. Mr. Joplin's coaching staff was present for the workout. Mr. Burns said Mr. Charalambous' teammates met with school officials yesterday after the announcement of his death.

"All our prayers and thoughts are with Haris' family. This is such an incredible tragedy that we're all trying to cope with," said UT athletic director Mike O'Brien, who returned last evening from Toronto, where he was attending Mid-American Conference/International Bowl meetings.

Mr. O'Brien said he had already received an e-mail from a "coach and friend" of Mr. Charalambous in England.

"It pretty much summed up what we all thought of Haris. He said that Haris was a great person and was great fun to coach and be around, and that he couldn't think of a bad word ever being said about him. As soon as last season ended, Haris immediately started working to make himself a better player for this upcoming season. I know he was so excited about our team and its future. This is so sad."

Rockets players were not available for comment.

"The team has had a team meeting with the [assistant] coaches and other representatives from the athletic department [and] there will be continued dialogue about this tragedy," Mr. Burns said. "Certainly when Coach [Joplin] gets back, he'll meet with them."

Mr. Charalambous, a 6-foot-10, 270-pound junior, played in 23 games and averaged 0.8 points, 0.8 rebounds, and 5.4 minutes per game last season. He arrived at UT three years ago after attending The Hun School - a prep school - in Princeton, N.J. He only played one game at Hun - with 13 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. He had a season-ending ankle injury.

Mr. Charalambous averaged 10.3 points and 6.8 rebounds with a 55.9 shooting percentage playing a season in England's senior men's league prior to attending Hun. He figured as one of the Rockets' backup frontcourt players this season.

Formal plans by the university in regard to paying respects to Mr. Charalambous were in the planning stages yesterday.

"Frankly, we're still in shock and we want to make sure that we do everything we can for Haris' family, teammates, friends, fellow students, and alumni," Mr. Burns said. "As we move along, we'll do the right thing as the university keeps in mind his teammates and family."

The death is not the first of a prominent area athlete.

In 2001, Rogers football standout Drushaun Humphrey, 18, an OSU recruit, died while playing a pickup basketball game. In November, 2002, Bowling Green State University soccer player Leslie Dawley, 18, died five minutes into a game. And in September, 2004, BGSU football player Aaron Richardson, 18, of Sandusky died while practicing. Last month, Dale Lloyd, a freshman football player at Rice, collapsed and died after a workout.

Staff writers Dave Hackenberg and JC Reindl contributed to this story.

Contact Donald Emmons at:


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