Top 10 People Who Died at the Age of 18

Eighteen is a special time in a person’s life.  In most countries, 18-years-old is when an individual is legally considered an adult and can assume control over their actions and decisions.  As we move into the 21st century, the age of maturity has risen.  A 15-year-old boy living in the Middle Ages had greater responsibilities then is expected today.  When a young man or woman dies, the event has a lasting impact.  People take notice when potential is lost at such an early age.  This article will examine ten people who died at the age of 18.  One person included disappeared at the age of 18 and is presumed dead.

Other people who were considered for this article include Chinese police officer Lee Kim Lai, child star Anissa Jones (from Family Affair), soul and R&B musician Ronnie Caldwell, the first wife of Alfonso XII, Mercedes of Orléans, the eldest son of King Edmund, Eadwig, and most recently Filipino actor AJ Perez.

10. Rob Knox

Rob Knox

In 1989, Rob Knox was born in Kent, England.  He was a student at Beths Grammar School.  As a child Rob wanted to be an actor.  His first credited role was in an episode of the ITV police drama The Bill.  He also appeared in the Channel 4 reality show Trust me I’m a Teenager, and the BBC comedy After You’ve Gone.  The first film Rob Knox starred in was King Arthur in 2004.  He also appeared on Tonight with Trevor McDonald.

A Lasting Impression

In 2007, Rob Knox landed the role of Marcus Belby in the movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installment of the Harry Potter film series.  After the movie was released, millions of teenagers took to Rob’s character.  He received a number of movie and television offers following his inclusion in the series.  The young English actor had a promising career.  On May 24, 2008, Knox died at the age of 18 after he was stabbed outside the Metro Bar in Sidcup, south-east London.  Rob was injured after he intervened in a fight to protect his 17-year-old brother Jamie, who was being threatened by two men, one of whom was armed with two knives.

Karl Norman Bishop was charged with the murder of Rob Knox.  Bishop was found guilty on March 4, 2009, and received a life sentence.  He was known to have regularly carried a knife and had two previous convictions, one for slashing two men in the face.  Karl Bishop stabbed Rob Knox five times with two separate weapons.  In his court proceedings, Bishop was reported to have “smiled and winked” at witnesses moments after the fatal stabbing.  The character of Marcus Belby did not appear in the seventh Harry Potter novel.  However, Knox had signed on to reprise his role in the final two installments of the film series.

9. Eric Harris

Eric Harris

In 1981, Eric Harris was born in Wichita, Kansas.  His family moved from Plattsburgh, New York, to Littleton, Colorado, in July 1993, when Wayne Harris retired from military service.  The Harris family lived in rented accommodations for the first three years in Littleton.  During this time, Eric met Dylan Klebold.  In 1996, the Harris family purchased a house south of Columbine High School.  Eric’s older brother, Kevin, attended college at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  He noted that Eric’s journal talked about hijacking planes and crashing them in New York City.

A Lasting Impression

On Tuesday, April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High School in Colorado, near Denver and Littleton with two armed 20 pound (9 kg) propane bombs.  They placed the bombs inside the cafeteria and set them to explode at approximately 11:17 a.m.  Eric and Dylan then returned to their car and waited for the bombs to go off.  They intended to open fire on students fleeing the school through the main entrances.  When the bombs failed, Harris and Klebold armed themselves with artillery of weapons, met, and walked toward the building.  It has been estimated that if any of the bombs placed in the cafeteria had detonated properly, the blast could have caused extensive structural damage and resulted in the death of hundreds.

Once they entered the school again, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold embarked on a 49-minute massacre killing 12 students and 1 teacher.  They injured 21 other students.  The pair then committed suicide in the school library.  At the time of death, Eric Harris was 18-years-old and Dylan Klebold was 17.  The massacre provoked debate regarding gun control laws, the availability of firearms in the United States, and gun violence involving youths.  Discussion also centered on the nature of high school cliques, subcultures, and bullying, as well as the role of violent movies and video games in American society.

According to early accounts of the shooting, Harris and Klebold were very unpopular students and frequent targets of bullying at Columbine.  However, later research published by USA Today indicated that Harris and Klebold were rarely bullied, but rather bragged in diaries about picking on freshmen and “fags.”  Initially they were believed to be members of a clique called the Trenchcoat Mafia.  This report was later discounted.  Despite reports indicating that Dylan Klebold was a negative influence on Eric Harris, Harris is the one who conceived the attacks.  He was more than just troubled.  Eric Harris was, psychologists now say, a smart and cold-blooded predatory psychopath.

8. Natalee Holloway

Natalee Holloway

Natalee Holloway is an American student from Mountain Brook, Alabama.  She graduated from Mountain Brook High School on May 24, 2005.  On May 26, 2005, Holloway and 124 fellow graduates traveled to Aruba for a five-day trip.  The teenagers were accompanied by seven chaperones.  Holloway was last seen by her classmates leaving the Aruban bar and night club Carlos’n Charlie’s around 1:30 a.m. on Monday, May 30, 2005.  She left with three men including a 17-year-old boy named Jordan van der Sloot.

A Lasting Impression

Natalee Holloway was scheduled to fly home on May 30, but did not appear at the airport.  When questioned, van der Sloot said he dropped Natalee off at her hotel the previous evening.  Upon further investigation Van der Sloot was arrested twice on suspicion of involvement in her disappearance and the other two men were each arrested three times.  Due to lack of evidence they were released after each arrest.  With the help of hundreds of volunteers, Aruban investigators conducted an extensive search for Holloway.  Special Agents from the FBI, Dutch soldiers, and three specially equipped Dutch Air Force F-16 aircraft participated in the search.  It was unsuccessful, and according to Aruban authorities Natalee Holloway is most likely dead.

The Aruban prosecutor’s office reopened the case on February 1, 2008, after receiving video footage of Joran van der Sloot, under the influence of marijuana, making statements that Holloway died on the morning of May 30, 2005, and that he disposed of her body.  Van der Sloot later denied the account, and subsequently gave Greta Van Susteren an interview (the contents of which he later retracted) in which he said that he sold Holloway into sexual slavery.

On May 30, 2010, five years to the day of Holloway’s disappearance, Stephany Tatiana Flores Ramírez, a 21-year-old business student was reported missing in Lima, Peru.  She was found dead in a hotel room registered to Jordan van der Sloot.  Jordan was arrested on June 3 in Chile and was deported to Peru the next day.  On June 7, 2010, Peruvian authorities said that van der Sloot confessed to the killing of Flores Ramírez.  He assaulted her after she accessed his laptop without permission.  It has been reported that Ramirez found information linking Jordan to the disappearance of Holloway.  On June 11, 2010, Jordan van der Sloot was charged in Lima Superior Court with first-degree murder and robbery.  He is awaiting trial and faces 30 years imprisonment.  Time magazine declared Van der Sloot’s arrest the top crime story of 2010.  Natalee Holloway is presumed dead.

7. Yukiko Okada

Yukiko Okada

Yukiko Okada was born on August 22, 1967, the second daughter of the Sat? family at the Ichinomiya Hospital in Japan.  During her childhood, Okada loved to read books, especially comic books and she was a talented artist.  In junior high Okada wanted to become a singer and applied for every possible audition.  She hoped to become a music star.  In 1983, Yukiko was accepted to a TV talent program named Star Tanj? on Nippon Television.  The show was similar to American Idol and Britain’s Got Talent.  In March 1983, Yukiko was named the winner of Star Tanj?.

A Lasting Impression

On April 21, 1984, Okada debuted with her first single titled “First Date.”  She was known as Yukko in the beginning of her career.  That year, Okada won Rookie of the Year, and was awarded the 26th Japan Record Awards’ Grand Prix Best New Artist Award.  In 1985, Okada played the leading role in her first television drama titled Kinjirareta Mariko (The Forbidden Mariko).

Around 10 o’clock April 8, 1986, the manager of the Sun Music building discovered the 18-year old Okada with a slashed wrist in her gas-filled Tokyo apartment, crouching in a closet and sobbing.  Two hours later, Okada jumped to her death from the seven-story Sun Music Agency building.  The reason for her sudden suicide is unknown.  Yukiko Okada’s untimely death resulted in many copycat suicides in Japan, so much so that the media christened the phrase Yukko Syndrome to describe her copycat suicides.  In 1986, the suicide rate in Japan jumped to an all-time high.

6. Elagabalus

Elagabalus

Elagabalus, also known as Heliogabalus, became Roman Emperor in the year 218 at the age of 14.  In 217, the emperor Caracalla was assassinated and replaced by Marcus Opellius Macrinus.  Caracalla’s maternal aunt, Julia Maesa, successfully instigated a revolt among the Third Legion to have her eldest grandson, Elagabalus, declared emperor in his place.  Macrinus was defeated on June 8, 218, at the Battle of Antioch, upon which Elagabalus, barely fourteen years old, ascended to the imperial power and began his reign.

A Lasting Impression 

During his rule, Elagabalus showed a disregard for Roman religious traditions and sexual taboos.  He replaced the traditional head of the Roman pantheon, Jupiter, with a lesser god, Deus Sol Invictus.  Elagabalus lavished favors on courtiers that have since been assumed to have been his homosexual lovers, and was reported to have regularly looked for sex in the imperial palace.  The relationship between Julia Maesa, Julia Soaemias, and Elagabalus was strong.  Julia Maesa tried to position herself as the power behind the throne and subsequently the most powerful woman in the world.  However, Elagabalus would prove to be highly independent, set in his ways, and impossible to control.

Elagabalus pampered his natural good looks by wearing too much make-up.  He was described as having been “delighted to be called the mistress, the wife, the Queen of Hierocles” and was said to have offered vast sums of money to the physician who could equip him with female genitalia.  By 221 Elagabalus’ eccentricities infuriated the soldiers of the Praetorian Guard.  Julia Maesa understood that support for the emperor was wavering and decided to have him replaced.  Maesa convinced Elagabalus to appoint his cousin Alexander Severus as heir.  The emperor soon reconsidered the arrangement after the Praetorian Guard began to favor his cousin over himself.


Elagabalus stripped Alexander of his titles.  In response a riot ensued and the Praetorian Guard demanded to see Elagabalus and Alexander in the Praetorian camp.  The emperor complied and on March 11, 222 he showed up at the camp.  Upon arrival the soldiers started cheering Alexander, while ignoring Elagabalus, who ordered the summary arrest and execution of anyone who had taken part in the revolt.  In response, the Praetorians attacked Elagabalus and his mother.  The emperor made an attempt to flee, and would have got away by escaping in a chest but was discovered and slain.

5. Jesse Gelsinger

Jesse Gelsinger

Jesse Gelsinger was born with an X-linked genetic disease of the liver named ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency.  The symptoms of the disorder made it so Jesse couldn’t clear ammonia from his bloodstream.  Ammonia is a byproduct of protein breakdown in the human body.  The disease is usually fatal at birth, but Jesse’s specific type of the disorder was the result of a genetic mutation.  Some of his cells were normal which enabled him to survive on a restricted diet and special medications.

A Lasting Impression

In the late 1990s, Jesse Gelsinger joined a clinical trial run by the University of Pennsylvania that was attempting to develop a treatment for infants born with severe disease.  In order to participate in the study Jesse needed to be an adult, so he waited until he was 18-years-old to sign up.  On September 13, 1999, Gelsinger was injected with an adenoviral vector carrying a corrected gene.  The Penn research team was attempting to find a way to treat Gelsinger’s condition by transporting a healthy gene into the liver.  Following the procedure, Jesse had an adverse reaction and died four days later, September 17, apparently having suffered a massive immune response triggered by the viral vector used to transport the gene into his cells.  The procedure caused Jesse to experience multiple organ failure and brain death.

Jesse was the first person publicly identified as having died in a clinical trial for gene therapy.  A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation concluded that the scientists involved in the trial, including the lead researcher Dr. James M. Wilson (U Penn), broke several rules of conduct.  Jesse was included in the study despite having high ammonia levels that should have led to his exclusion.  The medicine was given to Gelsinger after two previous patients had suffered severe side effects.  A collection of monkeys given the same treatment had died.  The scientists responded with the fact that the gene therapy was successful for 17 previous patients.  The University of Pennsylvania issued a rebuttal, but paid the parents of Jesse Gelsinger an undisclosed amount of money.

4. Peter Fechter

Peter Fechter

After World War II, Germany was governed by the Allied Control Council which consisted of the victorious Allied nations, including the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union and France.  The German capital of Berlin was divided into four zones, one for each Ally.  As the Cold War escalated, the Potsdam Agreement on managing Germany failed, and the Allied Control Council became ineffective.  The country was divided into West Germany and East Germany, corresponding to the areas occupied by the western Allies and the Soviet Union.  In 1961, the increasing flight of refugees from East Berlin to the West prompted the Communist government to build the Berlin Wall.

A Lasting Impression

About one year after the construction of the Berlin Wall, a teenage bricklayer named Peter Fechter attempted to flee from the GDR (German Democratic Republic).  He was accompanied by a friend named Helmut Kulbeik.  In order to reach West Berlin, the boys needed to scale the Berlin Wall.  The plan was to hide in a carpenter’s workshop near the wall in Zimmerstrasse and, after observing the border guards from there, to jump out of a window into the so-called death-strip.  The boys were then going to climb over the two meter (6.5 ft) wall into the Kreuzberg district of West Berlin near Checkpoint Charlie.

When they reached the Berlin Wall guards protecting the zone began to shoot at Peter Fechter and Helmut Kulbeik.  Kulbeik succeeded in crossing the wall, but Peter Fechter was shot in the pelvis.  He fell back into the death-strip on the Eastern side, where he remained in view of Western onlookers, including journalists.  Despite his screams, Fechter received no medical assistance from the East or the West.  He bled to death after approximately one hour.  He was only 18-years-old.  As a result of his death, hundreds of people in West Berlin formed a spontaneous demonstration, shouting “Murderers!” at the border guards.

The lack of medical assistance for Peter Fechter was attributed to mutual fear.  After his death, a memorial cross was placed on the western side of the Berlin Wall near the spot where Fechter was shot and bled to death.  After German reunification in 1990, the Peter-Fechter-Stelle memorial was constructed at the actual spot where Peter had died on the Eastern side.  In March 1997 two former East German guards, Rolf Friedrich and Erich Schreiber, faced manslaughter charges for Fechter’s death.  Both men were convicted and sentenced to 20 and 21 months’ imprisonment on probation.  Peter Fechter was one of the first victims to die while attempting to cross the Berlin Wall.

3. Ryan White

Ryan White

Ryan White was an American teenager from Kokomo, Indiana who became a national poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States during the late 1980s.  White was born with a severe case of Hemophilia A, which is a hereditary blood coagulation disorder associated with the X chromosome.  It causes minor injuries to result in severe bleeding.  For treatment, Ryan got weekly transfusions of Factor VIII, a blood product created from pooled plasma of non-hemophiliacs.

A Lasting Impression

Healthy for most of his childhood, Ryan White became extremely ill with pneumonia in December 1984.  On December 17, 1984, during a partial-lung removal procedure, he was diagnosed with AIDS.  It was determined that Ryan had received the disease after a contaminated factor VIII treatment.  The exact time of the transfusion that gave him AIDS is unknown.  In the early 1980s, AIDS had only recently been identified and restrictions weren’t placed on blood donations.  As a result, the factor VIII concentrate supplies in hospitals became tainted with AIDS.  Among hemophiliacs treated with blood-clotting factors between 1979 and 1984, nearly 90% became infected with HIV.

After Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS doctors predicted he had only six months to live.  By 1985 Ryan had begun to feel better and wanted to return to school.  Doctors said he posed no risk to other students, but AIDS was poorly understood, and when Ryan tried to return to school, many parents and teachers in Kokomo rallied against his attendance.  A lengthy legal battle ensued and media coverage of the case turned White into a national celebrity and spokesman for AIDS research and public education.

In the late 1980s, Ryan White frequently appeared in the media with celebrities such as Elton John, Michael Jackson and Phil Donahue.  Ryan White lived five years longer than predicted and died in April 1990, one month prior to his high school graduation.   Ryan’s funeral was attended by over 1,500 people at the Second Presbyterian Church on Meridian Street in Indianapolis.  Elton John performed the song Skyline Pigeon at the service and also trained the Hamilton Heights High School choir to sing with him.

Shortly after his death, the U.S. Congress passed a major piece of AIDS legislation named the Ryan White Care Act.  It funds programs to improve availability of care for low-income, uninsured and under-insured victims of AIDS.  In the middle of the 1980s, AIDS was a disease widely associated with the male gay community.  This is because it was first diagnosed among gay men.  This perception shifted as Ryan and other prominent HIV-infected people, such as Magic Johnson, the Ray brothers and Kimberly Bergalis, appeared in the media to advocate for AIDS research and public education.  Ryan White Programs remain the largest provider of services for people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States.

2. Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales

Henry Prince of Wales

In 1567, James I of England became the King of Scots at the age of thirteen months.  He succeeded his mother Mary, Queen of Scots, who had been compelled to abdicate in his favor.  On March 24, 1603, James I became King of England and Ireland when he united the crowns.  Each country remained legally separate with different parliaments and judiciary laws.  However, they were each ruled by James.  James I ruled England, Scotland, and Ireland for 22 years, often using the title King of Great Britain, until his death at the age of 58.

Henry Frederick Stuart, Prince of Wales was the elder son of King James I and Anne of Denmark.  He was born in 1594.  As a child, Prince Henry was widely viewed as a bright and promising heir to his father’s throne.  As he grew older Henry’s popularity rose so high that it threatened his father.  The relationship between King James I and Prince Henry was tense and often reported in the public.  One story tells of a hunting trip near Royston when James I criticized his son for lacking enthusiasm for the chase.  Henry initially moved to strike his father with a cane, but instead rode off.  The hunting party chose to follow Prince Henry.

A Lasting Impression

As a young man, Henry showed great promise and active concern in leadership matters.  In 1612, Prince Henry died from typhoid fever at the age of 18.  The diagnosis was made after the study of written records of the post-mortem examination.  Henry was buried in Westminster Abbey.  His death was widely regarded as a tragedy for the nation.  According to Charles Carlton, “Few heirs to the English throne have been as widely and deeply mourned as Prince Henry.”  James I refused to attend the service.

All of Prince Henry’s automatic titles passed to Charles, who, until then, had lived in Henry’s shadow.  In the community, Charles was not as well regarded as Henry, and after he assumed the throne in 1625, his reign was marked by controversies.  Charles last years as king involved the English Civil War, in which he fought the forces of the English and Scottish Parliaments, which challenged his attempts to overrule and negate Parliamentary authority.  Following several years of the war, King Charles I was tried and convicted of treason and beheaded in 1649.  It is interesting to think how history might be different if Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales survived to become king.

1. Tutankhamun

tutankhamun

Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty.  He ruled during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom.  Tutankhamun was born in 1341 BC (3352 years ago).  He was the son of Akhenaten and ascended to the throne in 1333 BC, at the age of nine or ten.  Towards the end of the 18th Dynasty, Egypt was in a state of turmoil.  The country was economically weak following the reign of Akhenaten who had an apparent lack of interest in international affairs.  In his third regnal year, Tutankhamun reversed several decisions made by his father.  He ended the worship of the God Aten and restored Amun to supremacy.  The capital was moved back to Thebes and the city of Akhetaten abandoned.  Diplomatic relations with other kingdoms had been neglected, and Tutankhamun sought to restore them, in particular with the Mitanni.

A Lasting Impression

Despite many peace efforts, Tutankhamun lived in a time of war and military advancement.  In 1922, his tomb was discovered by Howard Carter and George Herbert.  The tomb is the most complete ancient Egyptian royal tomb ever found.  The discovery received worldwide press coverage and sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt.  King Tutankhamun’s mummy has been studied by scientific experts and DNA specialists.  Evidence has suggested that Tutankhamun had a physical disability during his lifetime that required the use of a cane.

His approximate date of death has been placed in the year 1323 BC, which makes King Tutankhamun 18-years-old when he passed.  There are no surviving records of Tutankhamun’s final days.  What caused his premature death has been the subject of considerable debate.  There is some speculation that he was assassinated, but the general consensus is that his death was accidental.

A CT scan taken in 2005 showed that King Tutankhamun broke his leg shortly before death, and that the injury became infected.  DNA analysis conducted in 2010 showed the presence of malaria in his system.  According to the September 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine, Tutankhamun was the result of an incestuous relationship and, because of that, may have suffered from several genetic defects that contributed to his early death.  King Tutankhamun was buried in a tomb that was small relative to his status.  His burial mask remains a popular symbol of ancient Egyptian history.  Tutankhamun was one of the few Egyptian kings that was worshiped as a God and honored with a cult following during his lifetime.