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Teen Collapses, Dies at School

Mystery: The cause of death for Ricardo Martinez, 15, of Van Nuys High remains unknown. An autopsy is planned. He had a 6-month-old son.

February 20, 2002|GARRETT THEROLF and DAVID PIERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A 15-year-old Van Nuys High School student who was the father of a 6-month-old baby collapsed and died Tuesday in front of fellow students as he was changing into his gym uniform, authorities said.

Ricardo Martinez fell off a locker room bench shortly before the gym class, which was to begin at 7:40 a.m., said Bob Collins, a superintendent for the southwest Valley area of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"He just fell on the floor and started shaking a little," 10th-grader Kenny Luweloyn said. "His eyes were open."

A teacher and a school nurse tried to revive the ninth-grader with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

He was taken to Valley Presbyterian Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:05 a.m., Collins said.

Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department said Martinez was not breathing and did not have a pulse when paramedics arrived.

"As of now, there are no indications of foul play," Los Angeles Police Det. Al Aldaz said.

An autopsy will be conducted later this week, but a cause of death may not be determined for weeks, said Scott Carrier, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

At 11 a.m., Van Nuys High Principal Herman Clay told teachers to inform students that Martinez had died. A crisis team was called in to counsel students, he said.

Family members gathered outside the parents' Van Nuys apartment, holding each other and fighting off tears, said they were puzzled by his death.

Maria Martinez said her brother "had no health problems. He wasn't in a gang. He wasn't using drugs."

Ricardo Martinez had boxed for four years with an LAPD-sponsored after-school program for at-risk youth, but quit six months ago when his son, Ricardo Sebastian Martinez, was born.

He applied to rejoin the program Thursday.

One of six siblings, Martinez worked weekends for a construction company run by his girlfriend's father, using his income to support his baby and his girlfriend, Joanna Limas, 15.

"Last night, he was singing to our son in the bathroom," Limas said. "We read a book together to him before going to bed. This morning he kissed me and my baby to say he was going to school. I don't know what to do now that I'm alone with my baby."

Maria Martinez said her brother bought Limas a ring last February and the couple expected to marry.

Despite the burdens of school, work and family, his sister said he was happy.

His mother, Maria Ventura, said she saw her son less after the baby's birth. When he came home, he would grab a spot on the couch or floor to sleep.

"He never did anything else" besides spend time with his girlfriend and their baby, Ventura said. "He never went out."

Times staff writers Andrea Perera and Jennifer Sinco Kelleher contributed to this report.

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