Garden City Community College has released a summary of an internal review of the circumstances leading up to the Aug. 1, 2018, death of football player Braeden Bradforth, but an attorney representing Bradforth's mother and a New Jersey congressman say it's short on answers.
The summary of the review — which is the first time GCCC has publicly released any findings from the internal review after Bradforth's death— was compiled by assistant athletic director Colin Lamb, GCCC police Chief Rodney Dozier and Title IX coordinator Tammy Tabor, all of whom directed questions to college spokesperson Ashley Salazar.
At the time of Bradforth’s death, Herb Swender was still GCCC’s president and John Green the school's athletic director. Both left those positions in August.
Lamb was named interim athletic director on Sept. 1, just before now-President Ryan Ruda was named interim president. As one of his first acts as interim, Ruda ordered an internal review into Bradforth’s death, according to a college statement.
The summary of that review sheds a little more light on the timeline of events, and states that Bradforth briefly spoke to a coach after the practice and prior to being found unconscious outside of a dorm room that night.
Bradforth subsequently died of exertional heat stroke, according to an autopsy. Former team physician at the University of Oklahoma, Randy Eichner, has said that heat stroke “should never” lead to the death of an athlete.
The summary also confirms earlier reports that the practice consisted of 36 50-yard sprints, which is a little more than a mile in total — enough to “build up a tremendous amount of heat,” Eichner has previously said.
The summary claims that there was no video surveillance “in the area where Braeden collapsed. Nor do any video tapes exist of any area where Braeden may have been,” contradicting claims made by Bradforth’s mother’s attorney, Jill Greene, who has said the college overwrote tapes from the night Bradforth died.
Also, the summary lays out seven areas the college has tried to improve “as a result of the internal review process conducted by GCCC.”
But the summary is not satisfactory to either Greene or U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who released a statement expressing further outrage at GCCC’s handling of the review and Bradforth’s death. Smith is the congressman for the district in which Bradforth lived before enrolling at GCCC, and the district in which his mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram, still resides.
“Now, more than ever, we need a thorough, external, independent investigation into Braeden’s death, as well as a review of the school’s policies and protocols for student-athlete health and safety 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's statement said.
Salazar, on Thursday, said the college “has not made a determination as of right now whether they will do an external investigation, and they are working with counsel on that.”
“We’re just very disappointed,” Greene said, speaking on behalf of Atkins-Ingram. “I feel that it’s simply self-serving. We want an objective, independent review conducted and authored by objective individuals who have no interest in the outcome of the review. This (summary) is the complete opposite of that.”
The summary confirms earlier reports and medical records that Bradforth was found outside of the GCCC dorm rooms by teammates some time following the first practice of the season and a team meeting on Aug. 1, 2018.
According to the summary, practice ended at approximately 9:15 p.m., and then assistant coach Caleb Young saw Bradforth stumble “a little” before regaining his balance, and Young said, “Hey, you’re good. Let’s go.”
Bradforth responded, the summary states, “Yeah. I’m good. I’m good,” and then proceeded to walk toward the dorms, instead of to the Academic Building, where the post-practice team meeting was set to be held.
The summary states Young asked Bradforth if he was quitting, and Bradforth shook his head, “in what appeared to coach Young as disappointment, and Braeden continued to walk away.”
Young then told another assistant coach at the meeting that Bradforth was quitting the team, the summary states.
A Twitter direct message to Young on Wednesday was not returned.
The summary then states that after what Young reported was a 20-minute meeting, Bradforth was found by teammates, confirming earlier reports from medical records kept by emergency medical personnel who arrived later at the scene.
Those unnamed teammates reported Bradforth’s location to Young, who “ran across the yard” to where Bradforth was, the summary said. He then called then-head coach Jeff Sims and, at the direction of Sims, subsequently head athletic trainer TJ Horton, who had left campus following the practice and team meeting. Horton returned to campus at 9:53 p.m. to tend to Bradforth, before calling 911 at 10 p.m., the summary said.
Sims said on Wednesday he has been directed by both GCCC and his new school, Missouri Southern State University, to not comment on any question related to Bradforth. Horton directed questions to Salazar.
The Emergency Medical Services report shows the ambulance was dispatched at 10:04 and arrived on scene at 10:09, as The Telegram previously reported. It transported Bradforth to St. Catherine Hospital at 10:33 p.m., and Bradforth was pronounced dead at 11:06 p.m.
The summary does not address the EMS report stating that Bradforth was wet and had water on the sidewalk around him.
The Telegram previously reported that a teammate, Kirby Grigsby, had poured water in Bradforth’s mouth, assuming he was dehydrated. The Telegram also previously reported three former GCCC football players had claimed that water was either withheld from players during practice or players who consumed water would be punished.
The summary claims that eight student helpers each had a carrier with water bottles for players to drink, and that 60 gallons of water were on the practice field. It also claims players would not be punished for not completing the 36 50-yard sprints.
The summary does not say if a trainer tried to speak with Bradforth after the conclusion of practice, which the coroner’s report states. That report states that Bradforth refused to answer the trainer while walking toward the dorms.
At the end of the college’s summary is a list of seven steps the college has taken since Bradforth’s death or plans to take as a result of the internal review process.
The college hired an additional athletic trainer on Aug. 20, 2018, and a strength and conditioning coach on Jan. 3. It also said coaches will undergo CPR and first-aid training, and will conduct immediate follow-ups with players who leave practice for “welfare checks.”
The college also plans to develop a policy and protocol to recognize and treat heat-related illnesses, increase campus police personnel to provide full 24-hour coverage on campus and develop an athletic training handbook.