LOWER BURRELL, Pa. - Hundreds gathered Thursday night to honor the life of Noah Cornuet, 16, who died Wednesday at football practice for Burrell High School.
Since his death, Channel 11 News has learned that Cornuet died from a rare heart tumor called atrial myxomna.
Officials said the teen had just finished stretching and was walking to his first drill when he collapsed about 6 p.m. Wednesday. Paramedics who attended practice immediately went to work on the boy; however, he died at Alle-Kiski Medical Center about an hour later.
Corneut's parents and brother attended Thursday's vigil to thank the community for its outpouring support. They released a statement saying, " We the proud parents and brother of Noah Cornuet. We are devastated by the sudden loss of our son and brother. We would give anything to have Noah back in our arms. Noah enjoyed the great outdoors, scouting, football, and wrestling. There is no one that Noah would not help. He carried his heart on his sleeve. He loved talking about what he did and what his future plans were. He knew we loved him and we trust that Noah is with his grandparents and in the Lord's hands. We would like to thank the Burrell Community and everyone for the outpouring of love, comfort, and support."
Cornuet’s father said his son was an incredible athlete and in the best shape of his life at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 270 pounds. They said he spent all summer at wrestling and football practices, and when he wasn’t there, he was working out on his own.
Cornuet’s family shared fond memories of him, including the fact he was the first freshman to ever win “Student of the Month" last year at Burrell High School.
Cornuet’s wrestling coach said the student always tried to be better and was a nice young man.
"Very soft-spoken. He was a respectable young man and would do anything you asked of him," said coach Chris Como.
Burrell Superintendent Shannon Wagner released a statement from the district late Wednesday night: “The Burrell School District community recognizes the tragic loss of a student tonight. Our crisis team has been activated and is available to assist students, staff, and the community as we cope with this loss. Support will be available at the high school over the coming days and the beginning of the school year. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
Wednesday was the first day high school teams began holding heat acclimation sessions. Teams are scheduled to conduct the sessions on Thursday and Friday to prepare for full-contact practices starting on Monday.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association instituted heat-acclimation sessions in 2013 as a way to ease football players into strenuous, late-summer training and possibly prevent heat-related ailments.
- CLICK HERE for the entire preseason heat-acclimation guidelines for student athletes report.
The rule required that teams practice outdoors on three consecutive days, with no individual session running longer than three hours and no full day including more than five hours of cumulative training; however, each team must practice a minimum of three hours each day.
Players may wear helmets and shoulder pads the first two days, but contact is not permitted. Full pads may be worn on the third day of heat acclimation.
- CLICK HERE to watch Channel 11’s Valerie Smock explain heat safety tips.
Dr. Christopher Bonnet from the Allegheny Health Network told Channel 11 there is no standard test to determine if a student athlete is at risk for health problems.
"This has been an intensely discussed topic in our field for several years and we still can’t come up with the best screening,” he said.
Bonnet said it’s important to drink enough water and use common sense. He said if something doesn’t feel right, there’s probably something wrong.
At Steelers practice on Thursday, Channel 11’s Bill Phillips told the players about Corneut’s death. Some, like William Gay, got emotional and told Phillips about the precautions he takes before practice.
"You definitely want to take a physical before, intense physicals, and make sure of your heart condition as well, throughout the summer and not just when you get to training camp. You must stay hydrated. Get your body acclimated to the heat. I train in Florida where it is 90 degrees and the humidity is crazy. I just try to drink a gallon of water every day and work out in the heat. Don't wear long sleeves and tights. Make sure you expose a lot of skin. It's unfortunate but we can't reverse anything God has planned, he said.
Reactions to Cornuet’s death have flowed on Twitter, the hashtag “#RIPNoah” attached to several of them.
Cami Zottola tweeted, “My heart hurts for the Cornuet family. Can't believe something so horrible happened to such a sweet kid.”
Other tweets included:
Haylee Roach: “It's crazy how such horrible things happen to the nicest people. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Cornuet family.”
Senior running back Ryan Sowol: “My prayers go out to the Cornuet family. Rest in peace Noah.”
Senior basketball standout Sydney Bordonaro: “I don't understand why bad things happen to good people. RIP Noah. The Cornuet family is in my prayers.”
Highlands quarterback Blake Leri: “My condolences go out to the Burrell football team and their loss. Never easy.”
Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.