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Kentucky family seeks answers after 17-year-old son unexpectedly dies after fight at school

Emmanuel Emeka's family and friends say he was in good health before suffering a seizure prior to his death.
Family members of Emmanuel Emeka are pictured.
Posted at 5:15 PM, May 14, 2024

A Kentucky teenager unexpectedly died last week after an incident at his high school. Now, his mourning family is seeking answers.

Relatives told Scripps News Lexington they were brought to their knees at the University of Kentucky hospital on Friday, where 17-year-old Emmanuel Emeka was pronounced dead following a seizure that he suffered during class.

Irene Mwele arrived at the hospital to find police officers and doctors surrounding her son. She said she never would have imagined that morning was the last time she would kiss her son goodbye.

"My heart's like, it's almost like he was never really alive. He was my best friend," Emmanuel's 9-year-old brother Fabien Iyeli said.

"I thought they was lying, but then when I came in here, I saw everybody crying, so then I started crying," Emmanuel's 14-year-old sister, Ndaya Emeka, said.

"It hurts. It still hurts, even being in his house or just in my house ... because he is just there. Nothing feels the same like it used to," Modoul Danso, Emmanuel's best friend, said. "It's just he played a big part in all of our lives. We just miss him. It don't feel the same anymore."

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According to witnesses, an alleged fight broke out at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, somehow involving Emmanuel. After the fight was broken up, one of the kids hit him on the back of the head. Then everyone was sent back to class.

Sometime later, Emmanuel suffered a seizure and was rushed to the hospital where he died.

Fayette County Public Schools claims no fight broke out and that Emmanuel suffered a medical emergency.

Meanwhile, Mwele claims the last time she received a call from the school was at 10:55 a.m. when they told her there was an emergency. The school has not called back to check on her or explain what happened to her son since. She feels like the school neglected her son and just wants the closure she deserves.

"He was never sick. He was an energized person," Danso said. "Always had a smile on his face, kind to everybody. Always moving around, never had signs of any sickness or anything like that."

"He was like, he was the best brother, pretty much. If I needed help with something, he would help me. If my mood changed, he would know before anybody else, and if I needed help with school stuff, he would do it," Ndaya said.

Iyeli said he could always lean on his brother for help: "If I was having a bad mood, he would talk to me. He was like my sibling therapist. He would comfort me sometimes."

Emmanuel’s family describes him as an honest person with a big heart who always sacrificed for others. He was even on track to graduate in two weeks and was accepted into Elizabeth Community and Technology College, with big plans moving forward.

"He was talking about the college, how happy and excited he is to leave high school, to start a new life," Danso said.

When asked what Emmanuel's best piece of advice was, Ndaya recalls, "It's okay to fail; just take another step forward."

EMS Captain Tom Work with the Lexington Fire Department State 1 says if you think you have a traumatic brain injury, pay close attention to these symptoms: nausea, vomiting, headache, lethargy, dizziness, and repetitive questions. You must seek help immediately.

Captain Work also states that no matter how minor the injury may be, if you've been hit in the head, they will always send you to the hospital for a more in-depth look to check off all the boxes and get you home safe.

A GoFundMe has been set up for Emmanuel and has since raised over $10,000.