His wife and high school sweetheart, Irma, was one of the two teachers who died in the Uvalde, Texas shooting. Her husband, Joe, 50, apparently couldn’t cope with her death and died himself on Thursday.

On Thursday, Joe Garcia, 50, attended the memorial for his late wife and laid flowers for her. Joe and Irma had been married for 24 years and had met and loved each other since they were teenagers in high school. The couple had four children. Irma worked as a teacher at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, where she was killed in a shooting spree last Tuesday.

Irma Garcia’s body was found in a classroom after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. She is said to have held children in her arms.

Widower collapses at home

After Joe Garcia placed the flowers on the cross with Irma’s name on it, the grieving widower drove home. There he is said to have sat down and lost consciousness. “He just fell over,” says Irma’s nephew, John Martinez, on Twitter. His family tried chest compressions, but nothing worked. “The ambulance came but they couldn’t revive him,” Martinez said.

The 19-year-old nephew learned of Garcia’s death from his younger brother. “He called me and said, ‘Please pray for Joe.’ That’s all he told me,” says Martinez. “And I said, ‘What happened?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know. We don’t know yet.’ And then I got a call, I think no more than 30 minutes later, where he was crying and saying he couldn’t make it.”

Doctors suspect Joe Garcia died of his ‘broken heart’

Doctors refer to “NBC News” as the possible cause of death as “Broken Heart Syndrome”. Generally, it occurs in response to extreme stressful situations, such as the sudden death of a spouse. Unlike normal heart attacks, such as those caused by blocked arteries, people with broken heart syndrome release stress hormones that stop their heart from beating properly.

“This is a classic case of broken heart syndrome,” said Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told NBC News. However, according to the cardiologist, it is impossible to determine with certainty whether Joe Garcia had a normal heart attack or broken heart syndrome without x-rays or an autopsy.

Broken Heart Syndrome can occur with a time delay

“Both types of heart attacks can be triggered by extreme emotional distress, such as that experienced when someone just found out their wife had died,” Bhatt said. Broken heart syndrome usually occurs immediately after a person receives terrible news, he added. However, some people need time to emotionally process losses, so broken heart syndrome does not appear immediately.

“In some cases, it can come a day later. It can be like, ‘Oh, wow, my loved ones are actually dead. They really aren’t coming back,'” says Bhatt.

Quellen: New York Times, NBC News