Congressman: Internal review into Garden City CC football player's death 'inadequate, incomplete'

GARDEN CITY, Kan. Update Friday, May 3, 2019

A Congressman pushing for answers into a New Jersey native's death after Garden City Community College's first football practice in 2018, says a summary of the college's internal review is not sufficient to help the 19-year-old football player's family with closure.

New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith says the summary of the "grossly inadequate and incomplete internal review" lacks answers to key questions into how Braeden Bradforth died.

"The family deserves the basic facts of Braeden's death," Smith says. "This is a summary of what? A young man is dead and we still don't know how or why he died. The summary raises more questions than it answers."

In a written response, Smith takes issue with the college's summary not including notes of interview with players, coaches and training staff or witness statements.

"Are we supposed to accept that there is no relevant surveillance video footage from GCCC on August 1 anywhere," Smith asks. "Can the tragic death of a 19-year-old be explained by a summary in a few paragraphs? No."

Smith says "now more than ever there's a need for a thorough, external, independent investigation into Bradforth's death, "as well as a review of the college's policies and protocols for student-athlete health and emergency action plan, to determine an exact, detailed timeline of the evening of Braeden's death and to ensure that such a preventable tragedy will never happen again."

Smith also questions some of the findings in Garden City Community College's internal review, including details about access to water.

"Published media reports indicate that water may have been withheld from players. Saying there was water nearby doesn’t answer that claim. It only furthers the concern," Smith says.

Concluding his response, Smith questions what the college may be hiding with its summary.

"Why is the college afraid of an external investigation that can shed light on this case and likely protect others in the future?" he asks. "What is a student’s life worth at GCCC? The summary is a sham."

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Garden City Community College Thursday released a summary of its findings from an internal review into the August 2018 death of a football player after last season's first day of practice.

According to the autopsy, New Jersey native Braeden Bradforth died of a heat stroke, hours after that first practice on Aug. 1, 2018. In its internal review, Garden City Community College says the football team began its practice at 7 p.m. and the temperature was 84 degrees, cooler than the average temperature for that time of evening in early August.

The college says players wore practice jerseys and pants and were not in full pads. Ten coaches attended the practice and the head athletic trainer reported having eight student helpers and three certified trainers on site.

"The trainers had large Gatorade containers on the sideline and each student helper had six water bottles in their carrier," the college says. "At the practice, Head Trainer (TJ) Horton reported that that there were 60 gallons of water, 10 ice towels, an ice chest with injury ice and bags, plastic wrap, 10 six-pack water bottles, an AED, a sideline kit with a rescue inhaler, splint bag and crutches at the site."

The college says the team was divided into two groups and while one group began drills, the other waited on the sideline or bleachers.

"They were being provided water, assistance with stretching, and waiting for their tun on the field," the college says.

It says the workout consisted of 36 50-yard sprints with 30 seconds of rest in between each sprint.

The college says neither the head trainer nor Garden City Community College Head Football Coach Jeff Sims noticed Braeden drop to a knee or complain about the drills.

A team meeting immediately followed the end of practice a little after 9 p.m. One coach reported that as they were walking form the field, he noticed Bradforth stumbled a little trying to speed up before regaining his balance.

The college says the coach asked Bradforth if he was okay and the player responded, "Yeah, I'm good. I'm good."

In its review, the college says Bradforth started walking in the direction of the dorms and a coach asked him if he was quitting. It says Bradforth shook his head and continued to walk away.

A few minutes after the post-practice meeting ended, a player reported another player was passed out outside the dorms. The college says the team's meeting that started a little after 9 p.m., lasted about 20 minutes.

An assistant coach immediately called Sims who instructed the assistant to call the trainer. The trainer also reported that Sims had called and asked him to respond to a football player that was down outside the dorms. The assistant coach called the trainer and directed him to where the athlete,identified as Bradforth, was located.

The trainer says he was a few blocks from campus when Sims called him about a player needing assistance. The trainer arrived back to the campus at 9:53 p.m. and began assessment and treatment, Garden City Community College says.

"He called 911 at 10:00 p.m."

The college says Finney County EMS arrived on scene at 10:09 p.m., assessed Bradforth's condition and transported him to St Catherine Hospital, arriving at 10:33 p.m.

"(Bradforth) passed away approximately 11:06 p.m.," the college says.

"GCCC staff has determined there was not a video surveillance camera in the area where (Bradforth) collapsed. Nor do any video surveillance tapes exist of any area where (Bradforth) may have been on August 1,
2018," the college says. "GCCC’s video surveillance cameras are not continuously monitored; rather, they record video for review
if a situation arises."

As a result of its internal review process, Garden City Community College says it's taken several steps, or is in the process of completing steps to improve athlete safety in response to Bradforth's death.

These steps include hiring an additional athletic trainer, hiring a strength and conditioning coach, putting all coaches through first aid and CPR training, immediately following up with welfare checks on players that leave practice, developing policy/protocol in recognizing and treating heat-related illnesses, increasing campus police personnel to provide 24-7 coverage and developing an Athletic Training Handbook.

The college says the 24-7 police coverage and development of the Athletic Training Handbook are steps that are pending.

The internal review intended to answer lingering questions from Bradforth's death concerning his condition after practice and the response to the emergency that followed.

Since his death, a New Jersey congressman has assisted Bradforth's family by pushing the college to conduct an independent investigation into the 19-year-old's death.