Big Country teenager dies from heat stroke, mother spreading awareness about staying hydrated

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GUTHRIE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — One Big Country mother is reminding students and adults to stay hydrated after her son died from heatstroke.

“He had just turned 18 years old, his birthday was on June the 10th,” said Mary Erwin McNiel.

Her son, Rue McNiel, was just about to start his senior year and if we’re speaking in football terms, he had the length of the field ahead of him.

If we’re speaking in West Texas football terms, it took him longer than most to go from the stands to the gridiron.

“[He said he was] the nerd that plays cards, you know pokemon, dungeons and dragons,” said McNiel. “[When he joined the team] he blossomed.”

Rue’s march down the field though was sidelined on August 13, 2020, one of the hottest days of the year.

“I was at work and got a call that he collapsed or passed out and I wasn’t thinking it was anything serious,” said McNiel.

Rue’s mom Mary was blindsided with a second phone call.

They were transporting him to Lubbock. He was in complete organ failure,” said McNiel. “His kidneys had already failed.”

Days later, Rue died.

“I walked in, it was a nightmare repeating itself,” said McNiel.

Mary had seen this before.

“I lost a brother that was 39 years old, 9 years ago to heat stroke,” said McNiel.

It’s why she’s trying to raise awareness for heatstroke. She said Rue was dehydrated days before practice.

“It’s not being prepared for the heat that day, it’s being prepared every day,” said McNiel.

While Mary’s number one player is no longer on the field, his memory won’t be benched.

“I have to find a reason to justify losing him,” said McNiel.

That reason is making sure the rest of rue’s team will go the distance.

KTAB/KRBC has reached out to the Guthrie School District where Rue was a student but has not heard back.

The family is having a special fundraiser and awareness event about heat stoke Saturday, September 12, at noon at the Anchor Marina in Haskell.

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