Tragic loss a reminder of the brevity of life

It’s a sad week for the University of Central Florida, the city of Naples and my alma mater, Lely High School, with the sudden death of redshirt freshman Ereck Plancher at a UCF training facility in Orlando on Tuesday.

Plancher, 19, collapsed during an indoor conditioning drill and was pronounced dead just before noon.

The climate of the facility does not appear to have been a factor in the tragedy. The preliminary autopsy failed to authoritatively determine the cause of death, and the Naples Daily News reported that Plancher had passed his physical before the workout.

As of now, this is an inexplicable death of a person defined by his peers as a “role model” and “class act.” This tragedy, which devastated the UCF and Naples communities, serves as a reminder of what can happen to even the most physically fit people and why we, as human beings, should cherish ourselves and our bodies.

USF has seen the inexplicable death of a football player before. In January 2007, running back Keeley Dorsey fatally collapsed while lifting weights at the University’s athletic facility.

Here are two young men, both 19 years of age, with physiques groomed to supply and absorb the punishment of one of the most physically demanding sports in the world.

Neither of these young men was found to have any foreign substances in his body – though Plancher’s final autopsy won’t be available for weeks – and yet both died suddenly, during what many have said were not demanding workouts.

Plancher, by everyone’s account, didn’t smoke, drink or use profanity – even in a game like football, in which emotions can run high. He was also very involved in his church. Lely High School Football coach Chris Metzger said of Plancher: “You pray every day your daughters will end up with a kid like that.” Plancher was an honor student who graduated early to get started on his college education.

These situations teach that tragedy can strike people of the finest character. Such tragedies make me critical of people who put foreign substances into their bodies despite knowing that the consequences could be deadly.

It’s very troubling to see, Lil Wayne, who throws all caution to the wind with a daily abuse of “syrup,” a potentially deadly cocktail whose ingredients include prescription-strength cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine. The same substance has been a factor in the deaths of rapper Pimp C and its innovator, Houston producer DJ Screw. When asked if the death of Pimp C would motivate him to quit the drug, Lil Wayne said he doesn’t care about the health risks.

Here is a guy with a young daughter and millions of dollars who admits that he doesn’t care whether he lives or dies, as long as he is happy.

On the other side of the spectrum, Plancher’s family has to take donations to give this young man, who was apparently drug-free, a proper funeral.

With all of the unforeseen factors that can terminate a human life, knowingly putting a potentially fatal substance into one’s body is insane. People like Lil Wayne, who should probably be in rehab, selfishly adopt the philosophy of “anything can kill you, so I’m going to do what I want.”

That may be true, but I would assume that anyone who enjoys being alive would want to eliminate factors that could bring about early termination.

If life can be snatched from a kid like Plancher in an instant, everyone should examine themselves to see what changes they can make to prolong their time on Earth

Ryan Watson is majoring in theater and the performing arts.