Smith has pushed for transparency, accountability for Braeden’s death at the collegeTurning Point: KS College President Promises to Meet with Mother of Braeden Bradforth
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) announced on Friday that, in response to his request, Garden City Community College (GCCC) President Ryan Ruda has said he would meet with the mother of Braeden Bradforth, Joanne-Atkins Ingram.
The announcement of the first meeting between Ruda and Atkins-Ingram is a turning point after an eight-month ordeal for Braeden’s family to obtain answers about his death at the college.
“After eight months of seeking answers about her son’s death, it is long-past time for Joanne to speak directly with the President of GCCC and the staff,” said Smith, the Congressman for Bradforth’s family. In a phone conversation on Thursday, Ruda acknowledged to Smith that he would be willing to meet with Joanne Atkins-Ingram in person. “Joanne deserves to know what happened to her son, and it is my sincere hope that this meeting will be the first of many steps taken by the school in the name of transparency,” said Smith.
Bradforth, a 19 year-old football player from Neptune, NJ, collapsed after evening football practice on August 1, 2018, on his second day at GCCC, was found unresponsive, and died later that evening at a nearby hospital. His autopsy later confirmed that he died from “exertional heat stroke.” According to his mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram, several of Braeden’s teammates said he was noticeably struggling to complete the football workout.
The college conducted an internal review of Braeden’s death, but the family never received the results of the review and to date, there has been no external independent investigation into Bradforth’s death. During Thursday’s conversation with President Ruda, Smith urged him to share with Braeden’s family the entire results from the school’s internal review of the incident, and to commission an external, independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.
“What happened during that fateful day? We still don’t know,” Smith said. “Think of what it’s like to not have this information, waking up in the middle of the night not knowing what happened to your beloved son—it is unconscionable. I repeat my request for the school to make the internal review available in its entirety to Joanne, to throw open the door to transparency and make sure that every single solitary fact is on the table.”
“Sharing the results of the internal review is a good step—but only a first step. Initiating an immediate, thorough independent investigation into Braeden’s death is necessary to provide closure for his family, and to help protect against any tragedies like this one from occurring in the future,” Smith said.
Smith joined Joanne Atkins-Ingram at a community meeting on Thursday evening in Asbury Park, NJ, surrounded by local residents who were supportive of Braeden’s family. At the event, Smith also revealed that he would be working on legislation to start a commission that would review the causes of exertional heat stroke among athletes, and to determine the national scope of the problem.