The college freshman from Burnsville who fell unconscious and died on a flight home for winter break had a heart abnormality, authorities said Wednesday.
Griffin “Babu” Gutwa, 18, of Burnsville, was stricken Dec. 22 as he was returning to Minnesota after his first semester of studies at the University of San Diego. Passengers seated near Gutwa during the Delta flight saw him napping about 90 minutes after takeoff and then gasping for breath, family members told KDRTV.com, a Twin Cities-based news website popular with Kenyan émigrés.
Flight attendants came to his aid and found medical professionals on board who began resuscitation efforts, and paramedics met the flight upon landing at Sioux Falls, the airlines said in a statement. Gutwa was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.
Dr. Kenneth Snell, the Minnehaha County coroner, said Wednesday that Gutwa had cardiomegaly, which is an abnormally enlarged heart. Snell said further details about what killed Gutwa would be released later.
Cardiomegaly is not a disease but an indicator of another condition, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, fluid around the heart, thyroid disorder or excess iron in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Symptoms include chest pain and other upper body discomfort, severe shortness of breath and fainting. Complications range from a heart murmur to cardiac arrest and sudden death.
Gutwa, a graduate of Burnsville High School who moved from Kenya in 2004, “was an intelligent 18-year-old who always spoke wise and put his loved ones first,” read an online fundraising campaign started on behalf of his family.
Funeral services for Gutwa are scheduled from 3-6 p.m. Sunday at Southview Seventh-day Adventist Church, 5750 Wentworth Av. S., Minneapolis.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482