A 15-year-old eighth-grader at Colina Intermediate School in Thousand Oaks died Monday after he collapsed while playing soccer on a playing field during lunch hour, school officials said.
Gi Lee of Thousand Oaks died at Westlake Medical Center, where he was taken after collapsing about 1:15 p.m., hospital spokeswoman Jane Kelly said. Principal Mike Waters said several students who had been playing soccer with Lee ran for help when he went down.
"He was not conscious," Waters said. "I'm not a medical person, but he was not alert or awake."
A health clerk and school secretary who responded to the scene performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until paramedics arrived, Waters said. Paramedics later told hospital officials that the boy had no pulse, no heartbeat and was not breathing.
"It seemed like an eternity (waiting for the ambulance), but they actually responded very quickly," Assistant Principal Phalba Thomas said.
Waters said Lee was a happy, fun-loving and positive boy who was well-liked by Colina students and staff. Staff members who learned of the boy's death were shocked and upset by the news.
"He was always ready with a smile," Waters said. "It makes you think about how fragile life is."
An aunt of the boy and several relatives gathered at the hospital Monday afternoon. The aunt, who refused to give her name, said the teen-ager had a medical problem in his past.
"A long time ago, he had a problem here," she said, tapping her fingers against her chest. "But he had been strong for a long time."
Kelly said the cause of death was not clear, but she confirmed that information from the family indicated that it was probably due to a congenital heart problem.
"It definitely seemed to be related to a heart condition," Kelly said.
An autopsy was to be conducted today, said Lt. Fred Corral of the investigations division of the Los Angeles County coroner's office.
Notification of the family, which is Korean-American, was hampered by a language barrier, Corral said.
Colina students were not told about Lee's death because school officials learned of it near the end of the school day, Waters said. A crisis team of counselors will be available at the school today to help students deal with their emotions, he said.
Students will probably experience shock and disbelief, in addition to grief, Waters said.
"Our message to them will be the same one we sent to the staff in a meeting after school today. He collapsed out on the field and that's where he was happy, out playing with his friends," Waters said.
Students interviewed after school said they heard that Lee collapsed and was taken to the hospital. They described the boy as friendly and outgoing.
"He likes showing off his cousin's computers," said Kulsoom Qamar, 12, a seventh-grader.
"He is a very nice person," added seventh-grader Leila Mobayen, 12.
Staff writer Mary F. Pols and correspondent Patrick McCartney contributed to this story.