No clear cause found in teen's collapse, death
By Dana Borcea
The Hamilton Spectator
BURLINGTON (Nov 1, 2006)
Standing more than six feet tall, Nicholas Dana Baff towered over most of his classmates at Burlington Central High School.
Despite his stature, the junior team lineman wasn't always a threatening presence on the football field.
"If anything, his coaches said they needed to make him meaner," said school principal Tom Adams. "They called him the friendly giant."
Baff, 15, died suddenly Monday morning, moments after walking into his second-period class.
The Grade 10 student showed no signs of illness before collapsing.
A teacher and then paramedics tried to revive him, but he was pronounced dead upon arrival at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital.
For now, his death will remain a mystery for grieving family, friends and school community.
Yesterday, an autopsy conducted at the Hamilton General failed to determine the cause of death.
Foul play and substance abuse have been ruled out, but it may be weeks or months before the coroner discovers what caused the natural death.
Family members said the Burlington teen had no known medical problems and that his death had come as a horrible shock.
"His life had barely even started," his grandfather Louis Baff said yesterday.
Learning the cause of death would help bring the family some closure, he added.
Social workers were at Burlington Central yesterday to continue providing support to grieving students and staff.
Baff's 12-year-old sister attends the same Baldwin Street school.
This will likely be the first brush with death for many of the students, said Adams.
"Kids aren't supposed to pass (away) when they're 15."
Items for a planned memorial for Baff were already pouring into the school office yesterday afternoon.
Among them were bouquets of flowers and several footballs signed by classmates and teammates.
Regional coroner Dr. David Eden said that sudden natural deaths among young people are rare, but regularly reported.
Eden, whose office is not overseeing the Baff investigation, added that a sudden interruption of heart rhythm and aneurysms are among the most common causes of deaths in such cases.
Some natural diseases, such as a malformation of the heart, often display no symptoms and offer no warning, he said.
"There are certain natural diseases for which the first symptom is sudden death."