News out of southern Georgia this week suggests there is at least one more safety precaution to consider in high school gymnasiums: the storage of wrestling mats.
Law-enforcement authorities in Valdosta, Ga., have ruled out foul play in the death of a 17-year-old Lowndes High School sophomore, who apparently climbed on top of a vertically stored, rolled-up wrestling mat, fell into the center and became trapped. Kendrick Johnson's body was found upside down inside the roll Friday morning. Investigators speculate that blood flow to his head caused Johnson to pass out, which could have ultimately resulted in a stroke or heart failure. There were no signs of a struggle, and a toxicology report is pending.
According to news reports, Johnson - who played football and basketball, and also ran track - must have been trying to retrieve a shoe that fell into the rolled-up mat. "We feel like he was trying to reach a shoe that was down that hole," Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine told The Valdosta Daily Times. "But no one knows [why he reached into the mat] but him and the good Lord."
FoxNews.com reports that Prine and his team of investigators will continue interviewing students and friends to gain a better understanding of what happened. Anastasia Roe, Johnson's aunt, said that she and her family remain skeptical about law enforcement's findings. "First we heard he was on the floor near the mat, then we hear he was wrapped in the mat," she said. "It's suspicious."
"I want Lowndes High School to know they are being held accountable for my son's death," Kenneth Johnson, the boy's father, told the Daily Times. "He should not have come up missing and dead during school hours. My son is gone now, and we can't bring him back. But there are hundreds of other students on that campus, and I want better protection for them."