OPRF senior suffers inexplicable death

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KATHARINE GRAYSON and DARRYL CATER

Oak Park and River Forest High School senior Marcus Henderson died Monday evening less than an hour after collapsing suddenly in the middle of an intramural basketball game at the high school fieldhouse.
The cause of death remained a baffling mystery at 11 a.m. Tuesday morning, according to OPRF spokesperson Kay Foran.
His father, Ivan Henderson, expressed shock when interviewed Tuesday morning from the family's South Oak Park home. Henderson said his son had no history of health problems and that there is currently nothing to suggest that his activities before the intramural game could have led to his death.
"I wonder if he ran outside in the cold up to the gym to play, but I don't see how it would be the downfall of a young man," he said. "Many people can do lots of things when they are so young. It's really a bit too real. We didn't expect this to happen."
He collapsed at 6:45 p.m. Monday night, and was pronounced dead at 7:15 p.m.
"It was almost instantaneous," Foran said. "He was running back and forth with the team during the game. He went to the sidelines waiting for a free throw and then all of a sudden fell on his back. He said, 'Oh, I feel so lightheaded,' and then fell down."
High school staff--a scorekeeper, two officials and two physical trainers--who were present at the game saw that he was breathing "somewhat erratically" and called paramedics immediately, Foran said.
Attempts to revive him by paramedics while at the fieldhouse were unsuccessful. An ambulance took him to West Suburban Hospital, where further efforts to revive him also failed.
He was pronounced dead at 7:15 p.m. He was joined at the hospital by his parents, two sets of grandparents and one of the high school's assistant superintendents.
Henderson, an Oak Park resident, was a "senior in good standing," who was involved in many extracurricular activities including Orchesis Dance Troupe and last spring's Snowball Retreat, which is an annual event attracting students from community high schools that focuses on making positive and healthy life choices. He had just received his black belt in Tae Kwan Do this year and was planning to attend college, his father Ivan said.
His parents were offered the option of an autopsy by the hospital, Foran said, but there is no word yet on whether they took that option.
He is survived by a sibling attending elementary school at District 97.
Superintendent-Principal Susan Bridge announced Henderson's death to students at the beginning of the school day Tuesday. Staff were informed via email and phone calls.
Crisis counselors arrived on site at 7:15 a.m. and students were allowed to leave class to participate in grief counseling.
"He was a wonderful young man - so focused and serious about his studies and engaged in so many positive co-curricular activities," Bridge said. "He was very popular among his classmates and our staff. He is the kind of student every school wants to have. He will be deeply missed by all of us."
Three hundred students take part in the high school's intramural sports program. This is the first death related to the program in memory, Foran said.
Sam Carson, assistant director of the school's intramural program said Henderson was a dedicated student.
"You knew if he wasn't there it was because he was home doing his homework and intent on his studies," said Carson, assistant director of the school's intramural program.
A funeral has not been planned, but Henderson's father said there will most likely be a memorial service in Oak Park.

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