Jennifer Millman

Mystery Shrouds Sudden Death of ‘Healthy' 16-Year-Old NYC Boy at Basketball Practice

"He loved basketball. Everything is basketball," his grieving mother said ."My sweetheart. My sweet son."

What to Know

  • A Queens school community is in mourning after a 16-year-old boy died Wednesday after collapsing during a high-school basketball practice
  • Lenny Pierre went into cardiac arrest Wednesday at John Bowne High School in Flushing Wednesday
  • The cause of his death remains under investigation, but family and friends were in shock as they seek answers

Authorities are working to determine why a 16-year-old Queens boy suddenly collapsed and died at basketball practice as his mother grapples with the mystery that befell her "healthy as you could imagine" son. 

The city medical examiner's office was working Thursday on the case of Lenny Pierre, who died a day earlier after going into cardiac arrest at John Bowne High School in Flushing. Pierre's coaches performed CPR on him before EMS responded and transported him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

His mother, Edna Georges, said he was already on a machine by the time she got there.

Georges said she has no idea what happened. She says her son didn't have any health problems or allergies and wasn't on any medication. He also had to take a physical before getting into basketball. 

"I have a healthy boy," Georges told News 4 in an emotional interview Wednesday. "I don't know what went wrong, to tell you the truth." 

"He said while he was playing, they saw him a little shaky," Georges said. "They told him have a seat. He said he was lightheaded. Just moments later, he collapsed."

Members of the girls basketball team at John Bowne High School held a somber practice Thursday, acutely aware of the loss. 

"We had a moment of silence," said Kiara Hall. "We all cried, 'cause even though we don't know him, there's still a connection through basketball. So it's still emotional for the basketball teams." 

Team manager Aaliyah London said Pierre was quiet but well-liked, and the news of his death has taken its toll on his team, who were very close. 

"It's all good vibes with the team, so I know that it really bothers them a lot," she said. 

"It's really depressing, especially after the holidays," said Zanaia Godette, also a manager for the girls' basketball team. "Everybody's in a happy mood, and then this happens. It's really sad." 

Darryl Joyner, the father of a teammate of Pierre, dropped his son off at the school Thursday for a special meeting, where officials were answering questions and offering counseling. Practice was canceled Thursday.

"We watched basketball together for a while, so it's a tough experience," said Joyner. 

Pierre's mother Georges described him as a "very sweet" teen who listened to her and never gave her any trouble -- a "healthy, young, talented athlete" who loved basketball, both playing it and watching it on TV. 

"I have a good one," she said, then paused. "Had. God." 

The family had a wonderful Christmas, she said, then Pierre texted her Wednesday morning to tell her he was going to practice. She responded, "OK, be careful." 

"I truly will miss my son forever," said Georges. "That's a big hole in my heart. That's my firstborn. Even if I have another son, it will never be Lenny, my sweetheart, my sweet son." 

Neighbor Steven Corbett described Pierre as a great kid, "just one of the kids you would love to meet." 

"It's very shocking to me, unbelievable, sad," he said. "He was just a great person to be around." 

Schools chancellor Richard A. Carranza said the Department of Education would be providing additional guidance counselors and support to the school during the investigation into the student's "tragic" death. 

Mayor de Blasio said he was "heartbroken" to learn of Pierre's death. 

"As a parent, and as a father of student athletes, I can only imagine the pain and sorrow being felt by Lenny's family, loved ones and classmates," he said in a statement. "On behalf of 8.6 million New Yorkers, I extend our deepest condolences. We will be with this family now and in the future as we mourn the loss of one of our city's children." 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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