Friday, January 23, 2009

Prep coach charged in death of a 15-year-old

Picking up on the point of yesterday's post - kid athletes are supposed to be safer when adults are supervising, but often the opposite is true - there's the distressing story of the Louisville football coach charged Wednesday with reckless homicide in the death of a 15-year-old player who collapsed from heat stroke at practice.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that the case may mark the first time a criminal charge has been filed in such a case involving a high school or college coach.

From the C-J article:

"David Jason Stinson was indicted yesterday by a Jefferson County grand jury in the death of sophomore lineman Max Gilpin, who collapsed Aug. 20 and died three days later at Kosair Children's Hospital, after his body temperature had reached 107 degrees.

If convicted, Stinson could be sentenced to five years in prison. His attorney, Alex Dathorne, said Stinson was "shocked" by the indictment.

"He will maintain his innocence, and I believe this will be tried in front of a jury where they will hear all of the evidence, including the testimony of Mr. Stinson," Dathorne said.

Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel, who made no recommendation to the grand jury, said grand jurors didn't find that Stinson's actions were intentional or malicious.

He said reckless homicide occurs when a "person fails to perceive a risk that a reasonable person in that situation would have seen" and that person's actions cause a death."

Later in the article:

"Max and a second player collapsed during the practice in which PRP coaches were alleged to have withheld water and continued to run players on a day when the heat index reached 94 degrees. The second player, a senior, spent two days in the hospital.

Both Jefferson County Public Schools and Louisville Metro Police investigated Max's death after The Courier-Journal reported that bystanders near the practice field heard coaches deny the players water. Other witnesses heard the coaches say they would run the players until someone quit the team."

In addition to the newspaper's excellent reporting, it has posted audio of the "911" call placed when Max Gilpin collapsed and video of his funeral. Very sad but worthwhile. There's also a good sidebar story on the shock waves in the coaching ranks caused by the criminal charges.

The coach is innocent until proven guilty, of course. But here we are again discussing a young player who was grievously harmed, arguably, because adults were around telling him what to do - and, tragically, what he couldn't.

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