Parents and a school district official are demanding answers after a 13-year-old Texas boy died four days after he suffered a severe allergic reaction to ant bites during a football game.
Cameron Espinosa was in a huddle with his teammates at Paul R. Haas Middle School in Corpus Christi last Wednesday when he started yelling, "Ants! Ants! Ants!"
He then collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.
Cameron died late Sunday, Driscoll Children's Hospital confirmed. A funeral Mass is scheduled for Thursday.
Cameron's mother, Josephine Limon, told NBC station KRIS of Corpus Christi that having more trained personnel on hand — even with something as simple as an EpiPen — could have saved her son.
"It's been devastating to lose my baby that way," she said, calling Cameron "an amazing kid" who had already started the recruiting process to play college football.
"He wanted to be a medical student and continue playing as a center with his number, 66," she said, adding that she had hired a lawyer.
The game continued after Cameron was taken away last week, creating intense anger among parents and even school board members, who said the district has a pervasive ant problem.
"Everybody's just speechless right now," Cynthia McCormick, the mother of a Haas student, told KRIS. "It's kind of scary, but you think that they should have been more prepared."
Corpus Christi Independent School District board member Hector Salinas — a former high school baseball coach in the district — said he stopped by the Haas field and personally saw more than 20 ant piles.
"People can tell me, well, when it rains, the ants come out. No," Salinas told KRIS, speaking last week before Cameron died. "I don't want to hear that. No. This kid got bit by a lot of ants. Something went wrong."
Life-threatening allergic reactions to fire ants are not common, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). The allergy is in response to the ants' venom, which is delivered through a bite and a sting, according to Dr. Stanley Fineman, the former president of ACAAI.
"Most people get stung, but don't have a problem," he said. For those with an allergy, "the normal reaction is a local area of itching and swelling around the site of the sting. The next stage we see is large local reactions. People might get stung on their hand and their whole arm might swell up."
More severe reactions include a rash and respiratory symptoms, and going into shock. Preventative allergy shots typically can help those with known ant allergies.
As calls poured in Monday from concerned parents after Cameron's death, Salinas told KRIS that he intended to inspect all of the district's athletic fields before students could be allowed back on them.
"Parents, they rely on us and the school to take care of the kids and make sure that they're safe," Salinas said, "And somehow, you know what? We didn't do our job."
School district officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but in a statement Monday, the district said it had canceled all extracurricular activities at Haas and had treated every middle school field with insecticide. It extended its condolences to Cameron's family and said grief counselors were at the school to help his schoolmates.
NBC's Elizabeth Chuck contributed to this report.