12-Year-Old Dies at Football Practice; Family Seeks Answers

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A family is trying to get answers after their 12-year-old boy died recently during football practice. Family members said if a person present at the practice had known CPR, perhaps the boy would still be alive.

“Somebody on the phone for 911 or an ambulance should have said to do palpitations on his chest,” Raven Brown, the mother of Elijah Jordan Brown-Garcia, told WSAZ-TV.

Elijah Jordan Brown-Garcia attended school on Feb. 10, and his family said everything was fine. But when he took part in football practice that afternoon, things took a turn, as reported by News 12 Connecticut

Elijah was at practice at the West Side Park football field in Newark on Feb. 10 when he collapsed. He was a member of the Essex County Predators – a team owned by Big 21 in Bloomfield, Conn. Elijah went to practice with his 10-year-old brother.

Family said Elijah didn't have any known health issues before his collapse Feb. 10, and there was no contact before he fell. 

“It was just drills running back and forth. He didn’t get hit," Raven Brown, Elijah's mother, told the news station. “He was a healthy kid." She said there was no indication that he was unwell or would die that day. 

News 12 Connecticut reported that the official cause of Elijah’s death is unknown. 

Brown said that it was her 10-year-old son who called her to tell her that Elijah had collapsed and was not responding.

“I said, ‘What are they doing? What is anybody doing?’ And he said, ‘They are pouring water on him, and they are fanning him.’ And that’s when I got my kids together and I said, ‘I’m on my way,’” Brown told News 12 Connecticut.

She said that the people on the field called for an ambulance twice and that she called a third time.

“I beat the ambulance there,” Brown said. It took responders about "30-40 minutes" to arrive.

"It took them a long time,” said said.

Elijah was eventually taken to University Hospital where he died.

News 12 New Jersey requested information from University Hospital about the family’s claim that it took too long for an ambulance to arrive, but the news station had not yet heard back as of Wednesday.

“When the coach called me (on Feb. 14) … [he said,] ‘Sorry, none of us are CPR-certified,” Brown said, as reported by News 12 Connecticut.

All New Jersey schools are required to have defibrillators on hand and at least one individual trained in CPR and defibrillation to be present at all practices and events. However, a law passed in 2015 to require the same for youth athletic events outside of school-sanctioned leagues was vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Christie.

“They are neglectful. You can’t run a team like that,” Brown said.

Big 21 said in a statement that the organization was not able to confirm any information about the incident because it is currently under investigation.

"I miss his face. I miss him dancing ... I just miss him. I miss everything about him," Brown says.

The family says they are looking into taking legal action. A GoFundMe campaign created to help with funeral expenses had surpassed its goal, raising $36,555 as of Tuesday. 

Brown said Elijah loved playing football. 

“He was so happy to be there. He didn’t know that it was going to be his last day,” Brown said.

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