Student becomes trapped in wrestling mats, dies

VALDOSTA, Ga. — A south Georgia high school student apparently climbed atop an upright roll of wrestling mats, fell into a center opening and died after he became trapped inside, authorities said.

Lowndes High School student Kendrick Johnson, 17, became lodged inside the roll of mats, upside down, Lowndes County sheriff’s officials said Monday. His body was found Friday morning in the high school’s old gym after his family reported him missing Thursday night.

No foul play is suspected, authorities said. An autopsy and an investigation by sheriff’s officials and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found no signs of a struggle, Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine told The Valdosta Times.

It is possible Johnson may have been reaching for a shoe that had fallen into the mat, Prine said. A shoe was found at the scene.

“At some point, Kendrick Johnson either reached into the center of one of the rolled mats or fell into the center opening of the mat and became lodged,” sheriff’s officials said in a statement.

“We feel like he was trying to reach a shoe that was down that hole,” the sheriff said, adding that no one knows for sure why he reached into the mat.

The student was upside down in the mat, with blood rushing to his head and upper extremities, causing him to pass out, the sheriff said. Keeping a human body upside down for an extended period of time can be deadly, causing hemorrhaging, stroke and heart failure.

Although investigators do not believe foul play was involved, the sheriff said he and his investigators will continue interviewing students and friends who have additional information.


Sister_Ruby 2 years, 9 months ago

What a tragedy. I hope this wasn't some incident of bullying or something and that authorities don't hasten to close the books on it. It seems very hard to believe that it was just an accident that nobody knows anything about.


Momof3 2 years, 9 months ago

I was thinking the same thing Sister. Praying for comfort and peace for his family!


jglass 2 years, 9 months ago

This is unreal. But you know freak accidents do happen. I just cannot imagine what he might have gone through. When they first said something about a rolled up mat, I was not imagining it standing up straight, but that does explain why he could not get out and being in head first as well.


chinaberry25 2 years, 9 months ago

Did someone possibly push him in. Always suspicious.


Thurman 2 years, 8 months ago

This is what bother me: Having had two sons and one grandson participate in Hi school wrestlng, and helping to set/take up the mats for matches and competitions. These mats can range in size from approximately 10' x 10' up to 20' x 20'. They are approximately 2 1/2" in thickness and made of a dense foam material. What I am trying to say is that they are heavy, really heavy. Rolling up any size mat and having it stored horizontally against a wall is enough of a chore even with students help. I cannot understand how this school stored these mats upright. That would be a tremendous task in itself. Now: Storing these heavy mats in an upright position is just plain dangerous. IF one of these mats were to fall, or be pushed, and fell onto someone it would inflict serious bodily harm--the schools liability here. How this young man managed to "climb into" one of these mats stored upright is just not feasible IMO. Supposedly he was retrieving a shoe? Has the shoe been found? Somethings not exactly right here.


debbie44 2 years, 8 months ago

Right on, Thurman, I've worked near these mats myself. They are very large and should never be stored upright. It's just too dangerous. Then too, students should never be left alone in unsupervised areas. No matter the age, students should never be left alone. This is so tragic. Hopefully, this tragedy will bring light to the importance of staff knowing the wheareabouts of students at all times. There's no room for excuses when it comes to students' safety.


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