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Report: Community College Failed to Prevent Heat Death

Paul Steinbach

An external investigation blames Garden City (Kan.) Community College officials for the exertional heatstroke death of a 19-year-old football player.

"The lack of oversight set off a series of events that ended with the death of Braeden Bradforth," states the 48-page report, prepared by law firm Lewis Brisbois.

As reported by KCUR in Kansas City, Mo., Bradforth died after his first day of practice on Aug. 1, 2018. Coaches had him run 36, 50-yard sprints. Teammates told KCUR, a radio station serving the University of Missouri-Kansas City, they saw him struggle during the workout. Bradforth had just arrived from the Jersey Shore town of Neptune and was not acclimated to the higher altitude and temperature.

But the investigation uncovered that although Bradforth's family doctor had cleared him to play, there was a recommendation about diet and exercise. "This recommendation was not noticed by the Garden City Community College athletic training staff until after Braeden died," the report said. So the coaches had no idea Bradforth could be in danger during the workout.

The day after Bradforth died, former head coach Jeff Sims, now the head coach at Missouri Southern State University, told reporters that an emergency department doctor speculated the teen died from a blood clot. A year after Bradforth's death, Sims took no responsibility when asked by KCUR. It happened after practice, he said. “It’s unfortunate what happened, but God has a plan."

The investigation emphasized that GCCC had no plan in place to help Bradforth once he was in heat distress. "An effective plan likely would have rescued him from what turned out to be his untimely death," the report said.

GCCC, which paid $200,000 for the investigation, refused to answer specific questions about the report and referred to a statement issued when trustees voted to release the report the Bradforth's family.

"GCCC values student health and safety, and the GCCC Sports Medicine Advisory Team and the Athletic Director’s Office will function as a reviewing body for student-athlete health and safety concerns within the GCCC Athletic Department.  These groups will consider any further recommendations for improvements of processes, procedures, or facilities which would directly benefit the safety, health, and security of GCCC student-athletes," the statement said.

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