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Alabama fan who attended NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis dies after returning home

The Associated Press reports Luke Ratliff was hospitalized after returning to Tuscaloosa on March 29 — one day after attending Alabama's Sweet 16 game vs. UCLA.

INDIANAPOLIS — Health officials in Indiana are investigating whether anyone was exposed to COVID-19 by Alabama residents following the death of a Crimson Tide fan who was in Indianapolis for the NCAA Tournament last weekend.

Luke Ratliff, a 23-year-old Alabama student, died after a brief illness, his father, Bryan Ratliff, told The Tuscaloosa News. The newspaper, citing multiple sources it did not identify, reported Ratliff died of complications related to COVID-19. The elder Ratliff could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday by The Associated Press.

The Associated Press reports Ratliff was hospitalized shortly after returning to Tuscaloosa on March 29 — one day after attending Alabama's Sweet 16 game vs. UCLA at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

NBC affiliate WVTM attended a memorial service Saturday to honor him.

The Marion County Public Health Department released the following statement: 

Based on a recent news story, the Marion County Public Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health are contacting the Alabama Department of Public Health to determine if anyone in Indianapolis may have been exposed to COVID-19 by any Alabama resident who visited Indianapolis in recent days. We are conducting an investigation following the county and state's standard contact tracing procedures. We continue to encourage residents and visitors to practice the simple and important habits that keep us all safe: wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing.

No. 2 seed Alabama beat No. 15 seed Iona 68-55 in the first round at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 20. Then, Alabama defeated No. 10 seed Maryland 96-77 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 22 to advance to the Sweet 16. No. 11 seed UCLA ended Alabama's title hopes with an 88-78 victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 28.

Ratliff was a well-known fan, known as "Fluffopotamus," familiar to many in his plaid jacket this season and the leader of the Crimson Chaos basketball campus support group.

"Fluff brought a positive attitude & energy to everything & everyone around him, especially @AlabamaMBB. He inspired all of us," tweeted Greg Byrne, director of athletics.

A GoFundMe page has been started to help the Ratliff family cover expenses. More than $35,000 has been donated as of Saturday evening.

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