USC, Athletes Grieving Over Death of Water Polo Player

Prior to attending USC, Jon Walters was a standout at Mater Dei High School

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Family and friends are mourning the death of a 19-year-old star athlete from USC who died suddenly from an apparent heart attack. Jon Walters, who helped the USC water polo team win six NCAA titles, was said to have fallen ill on New Year’s Day. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from USC for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2014. (Published Thursday, Jan 9, 2014)

    Family members, classmates and teammates were mourning Thursday the loss of a University of Southern California freshman water polo player who died from an apparent heart attack.

    Jon Walters, 19, of Newport Beach, had been hospitalized since Jan. 1 after falling into a coma while battling pneumonia and kidney failure, according to the Orange County Register.

    Walters died Wednesday. His father told the newspaper that his son had showed signs of improvement, even walking late last week.

    "Jon was a great Trojan, and an outstanding young man from a wonderful family," USC head water polo coach Jovan Vavic said in a statement. "He and his family were loved by all of us on the USC water polo team. I am deeply saddened, and I speak for our team in saying that this is a terrible loss of a friend and teammate. Our prayers go out to Jon's family in hopes that they find comfort."

    USC credits Walters with being a key player who helped the team win the 2013 NCAA championship in December, its sixth consecutive NCAA title.

    "We are heartbroken & saddened w/news. Our Trojan family has lost a special member today. We will remember & love you forever Jon Walters," the USC Water Polo team tweeted.

    Prior to attending USC, Walters was a standout at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana. As word spread of Walters' death, students at USC -- where athletics are woven into the fabric of daily life -- said they did not need to know the 19-year-old to be affected by his tragic death.

    "The Trojan family is really united," USC freshman Juliana Bella said. "And whenever something like this happens, we all feel connected to him."

    "RIP fellow Trojan Jon Walters. Prayers go out to the Walters family. I was lucky enough to have class with you this semester man. RIP," tweeted Trojans football player Michael Hutchings.

    An official cause of death has not been determined or confirmed by authorities. Officials with the Orange County Sheriff's Department said Walters' doctor will likely sign a death certificate within 48 hours and that will include an official cause.

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