Sleep apnea will certainly make it tougher to stay awake, but from experience these guys are often exhausted and it’s tough to keep alert in these circumstances, hence the widespread use of chew, cigs, coffee, etc. Black coffee always worked for me.
The trouble is that once you get seriously sleep-deprived, the world looks very dark indeed. It’s easy to become depressed and hyperemotional when you haven’t slept. There must have been some kind of medical issue if he was falling asleep even when his life was at stake. And if he was being tormented and razzed, he might have just felt the world was ending. People crack when they’re sleep-deprived.
Somebody needs to have his career ruined for allowing this, but nothing is going to bring this kid back to his parents. Their lives are destroyed; they’ll never stop grieving.