Autopsy results are pending for a Worcester teenager whose family said he died Friday after participating in a social media challenge where people eat an extremely spicy chip.
A spokesperson for the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said his cause of death hasn’t yet been determined.
The Paqui One Chip Challenge dares users to eat a tortilla chip containing Carolina reaper pepper and Naga viper pepper, and to see how long they can go without consuming something else for relief.
“Eat the entire chip. Wait as long as possible before drinking or eating anything,” the rules state. “Post your reaction on social media with #onechipchallenge and mention @paquichips.”
The chipmaker’s website advises consumers not to eat the chips if they are sensitive to spicy foods or allergic to peppers, and to seek medical assistance if they experience difficulty breathing, fainting, or extended nausea. The company could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Emergency responders found Wolobah unresponsive and not breathing at his Rustic Drive home at 4:30 Friday afternoon. He was taken to an area hospital, where he later died, officials said.
Lieutenant Sean Murtha, a spokesperson for the Worcester Police Department, said Tuesday via email that while a cause of death for Wolobah has not been established, “I think it is fair to say that young people encouraging each other on social media to engage in high-risk behavior is a dangerous trend and that parents should be aware of their child’s online activity.”
No one has been charged in connection to the case, he said. Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office referred questions to police.
A number of other social media challenges have made headlines in recent years, with young people posting videos of themselves consuming items in a dangerous manner, performing perilous feats, or endangering the public.
They include the so-called blackout challenge, where people try to hold their breath and pass out; the Orbeez challenge, in which participants shoot one another with gel ball or blaster guns, sometimes in crowded venues; and the tranquilizer challenge, where the object is to stay awake the longest after taking benzodiazepines, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention.
In Worcester, Wolobah’s grieving relatives remembered him as a kind-hearted person who enjoyed video games and basketball.
“The pain our family is experiencing is unimaginable,” Wolobah’s cousin, Tashia Roberts, wrote in the family’s fund-raising appeal. “Harris was a light that lit up the room with his presence and subtle charm.”
Relatives could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Worcester Schools Superintendent Rachel Monárrez said in a statement that Wolobah was a “rising star” in the school district.
“As a mother and educator, I cannot imagine how hard this is on his family, friends and teachers,” Monárrez said. “My heart goes out to all who knew and loved him.”
School officials are offering counseling and emotional support to affected students and staff, according to the superintendent.
“It is during the most trying times that the community of Worcester comes together and this is one of those times,” Monárrez said. “May we stay focused on allowing the grief and healing process during this difficult time.”
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report. This breaking news story will be updated when more information is released.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.