After months of pressure, the Garden City Community College Board of Trustees on Tuesday night approved a motion to seek outside counsel that will open an investigation into the death of Braeden Bradforth, a GCCC football player who died of heat stroke during an August 2018 football practice.
The board unanimously approved the motion, which gives GCCC President Ryan Ruda and GCCC attorney Randy Grisell authorization to enter negotiations to retain outside counsel and an independent expert for the investigation, which is not to exceed $100,000 in expenditures.
Ruda said much of the timeline moving forward is undetermined, but he hopes to provide the board a recommendation for an investigator soon. He said administration has not yet made any limitations to investigators they may consider, such as in or out of state.
The investigation will have a similar scope of the college’s internal review of Bradforth’s death, including related college policies, processes and procedures, but from an external perspective, Ruda said.
“This is just the next step and what it is that needs to be done. We’re following what we think is the right method and the right mode or how it is that we need to continue to be able to provide the necessary information,” Ruda said.
Bradforth died shortly after a practice on Aug. 1, 2018. He was found unconscious by teammates outside of the GCCC dorms sometime after a team meeting that began after practice had ended around 9:15 p.m., according to both a summary of an internal review conducted by GCCC and medical documents. Bradforth had not attended the meeting.
Emergency medical services was dispatched at 10:04 p.m. that night, and Bradforth was transported to St. Catherine Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11:06 p.m.
An autopsy ruled that Bradforth had died of exertional heat stroke, a condition a former team physician for the University of Oklahoma, Randy Richner, has said is preventable and treatable, and “should never” lead to the death of an athlete.
Bradforth’s mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram, and her lawyer, Jill Greene, have asked GCCC to commission an independent review since the completion of the autopsy in November 2018.
“This is certainly a long time coming. I’m very excited to hear the college is doing the right thing, finally," Greene said Tuesday night. "I’ll remain positive that we’ll finally get the answers we’ve been looking for.”
U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.) also penned several letters to GCCC asking for an independent investigation.
“We need to know how Braeden died so that we can help prevent these senseless tragedies from happening again,” Smith said in a recent press release. “An independent investigation will uncover valuable information about how Braeden’s heat stroke was addressed or treated, and what could be done in the future to prevent this from happening to other young athletes.”
Sports Writer J. Levi Burnfin contributed to this story.