The 13-year-old student who collapsed and died Tuesday afternoon during basketball tryouts at Murray Middle School in St. Augustine had an enlarged heart and died of natural causes, according to preliminary autopsy results released by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
Now Paris Nykel Byrd’s death has left her mother trying to understand why it happened as friends as well as her principal praise her following a diagnosis of hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy as the cause of death, according to the District Medical Examiners Office’s autopsy.
The eighth-grader was participating in after-school tryouts at the 150 Holmes Blvd. school when she became ill and collapsed, the Sheriff’s Office said. After leaving the court and resting on nearby bleachers, it was apparent her condition had worsened and staff summoned paramedics to the gymnasium shortly after 3 p.m. Taken to Flagler Hospital, she was pronounced dead. The tryouts, begun after classes Monday and Tuesday, were canceled Wednesday, according to the school district.
Paris’s mother, Erika Lowe, told Action News that her daughter’s death was unexpected and is “tearing me up.”
“I miss her,” she said tearfully. “… She wanted to try for basketball and I gave her the OK. I said OK. I don’t know. I guess God called her home.”
(Paris Nykel Byrd’s mom speaks in video below. Story continues below video.)
A GoFundMe page (bit.ly/2nEgpiX) says Paris was one of five children being raised by a single mother who “cannot afford a proper memorial,” so it asks the community to help with funeral expenses as it praised her as a student and child.
“If you knew Paris you knew she was dedicated to school,” the fundraising page says. “She always made the honor roll at Murray Middle School; she was kind, very respectful, funny, and had the most beautiful smile.”
Saying Paris represented what is amazing about the students at Murray, Principal Tom Schwarm’s memorial statement said that despite life’s challenges, she demonstrated “impeccable perseverance, hope and strength to achieve greatness.”
“She displayed a unique combination of thoughtfulness, positivity and leadership that radiated from within and influenced all she encountered in her time with us,” he continued. “As a top student in our A.V.I.D., Cambridge Advanced Studies, and Center Arts programs, Paris not only excelled in her academic studies through hard work and dedication, but also inspired her classmates to achieve.”
Schwarm alerted school parents to the death in an email statement Tuesday, saying counselors were on campus Wednesday “and for as long as needed.”
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549