Gillette Teen Who Died Unexpectedly Had Abdominal Infection, Coroner Says

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By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

A 17-year-old basketball player in Gillette who died following a medical event Dec. 26 had an abdominal infection, according to the coroner investigating the case.   

But the autopsy of the teen, Max Sorenson, still is ongoing pending additional tests by a forensic pathologist in Rapid City, said Paul Wallem, Campbell County Coroner.  

Wallem said the investigation so far has shown that Sorenson had abdominal peritonitis, which is an infection of the abdominal lining.  

Such infections can be caused either by liver or kidney disease, or by a rupture inside an organ in the abdomen, according to mayoclinic.org.  

“We are assuming it’s (from) an injury related to a sporting event,” said Wallem. “But the forensic pathologist in Rapid City had a few more tests to do and I haven’t heard back from him yet.”  

Wallem said he doesn’t yet know for certain what sporting injury could have led to the peritonitis.  

“That’s part of what the pathologist was continuing to look at,” he said.

On the day of his death, Sorenson had a medical incident at home, Wallem said in an earlier interview, and was pronounced deceased at Campbell County Memorial Hospital that same day.  

Readers’ Inquiry

Multiple readers have contacted Cowboy State Daily asking if the teen was vaccinated for COVID-19, presumably in reference to social media and news discourse on whether the shots are harmful for young people.  

Wallem said he does not know the boy’s vaccination status at this time.  

“We’re focusing on the injury in the sporting event as the cause of peritonitis,” he said, adding that if that idea isn’t supported by the evidence, “we will continue to look at other answers.”  

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