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Coroner probes teenager's martial arts death (Killed by karate/ TKD)
Coroner probes teenager's martial arts death
Markham youth dies after friends practise karate on him
`How can my son get killed and no one is responsible?'
The coroner's office says it will investigate the death of an 18-year-old Markham student who died after roughhousing with his friends.
Wallace Lee was at a friend's house on Feb. 20 when he put on a padded vest, his mother Connie Lee said. Three of his friends took turns punching him and practising tae kwon do and karate moves on him; one of the youths was a black belt in karate.
Soon after, Lee, a Grade 12 Milliken Mills High School student, fainted and died at the hospital.
William Lucas, regional supervising coroner for Peel, York and Durham regions, said yesterday Lee died after a blood vessel near his heart leaked; blood accumulated inside the pericardial sac around the heart and stopped it from beating.
"Any kind of blunt-force trauma could cause that," he said.
York Region police investigated and consulted with a senior crown attorney, and determined no charges would be laid, Inspector Mark Tats said.
Lucas said it could take several weeks, even months before the coroner's office decides whether or not to call an inquest into Lee's death.
"We need to look into the organizations that control or set standards for those martial arts to see if they have any thoughts on how the death of this young boy could have been prevented....
"Is there something to do with the way martial arts is taught or the way the equipment was used or was this horseplay one of a kind?
"We've got to look at stuff like the padding.
"Was it adequate to provide the level of protection that was (needed)?"
Lee's family is angry and looking for answers.
"How can my son get killed and no one is responsible?" asked Connie Lee, a 53-year-old machine operator.
The police told her that Lee's friends are good students in school and didn't mean to harm him, she said.
But she's dissatisfied with the police investigation, and said the family is seeking legal advice.
Lee's friend picked him up Feb. 20 in the evening and they went to anotherfriend's house to play video games.
Lee didn't know martial arts, his mother said.
While he and some others practised martial arts, other boys played video games, she said.
She said after a while, as the other youths were practising their moves on him, Lee told his friends he didn't feel good and that he wanted to sit down. He passed out.
"On the way to the ambulance, he woke up, but then he passed away."
Two of the young men involved declined to comment to the Star.
Tony La Selva, director of the Northern Karate School in Richmond Hill, called Lee's death a warning to parents and young children.
"If people are doing this, you need to have a sensei (teacher) watching," he said.
"If they're going to be fighting with each other ... they need to go to the dojo (martial arts school)."
About 300 people attended Lee's funeral last weekend, many of them fellow students.
"He was popular because he was a helpful, kind, giving young man," said Laurel Dodham, a guidance counsellor at Milliken Mills High School.
"He was an extraordinarily hard worker and he tutored other kids."
Students collected money for flowers around the school and wrote messages on cards and two bulletin boards. Teachers put together a slideshow about Lee for his funeral, said vice-principal David McAdam.
"He was really athletic, gentle. He wouldn't complain or argue with you," Lee's 19-year-old brother Eric remembered.
Connie Lee said her son wanted to go into civil engineering.
Lee said she shared a room with Wallace, who had three brothers. "Now I can't sleep. Me and my husband sleep for an hour and wake up crying," she said.
"It's not fair.... Our son was so good."