Independent Investigation Must Get All the Facts
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) issued the following statement on the news that the Garden City Community College (GCCC) Board of Trustees voted to authorize an external investigation into the death of Braeden Bradforth:
“We—especially Braeden’s mother Joanne—hope that today’s announcement will prove to be a very important step towards true transparency and we are cautiously optimistic the GCCC Board of Trustees’ decision to intervene and join our call for an independent, external investigation will finally reveal what happened during Braeden Bradforth’s last day and what can be done to prevent others from suffering the same fate.
“After many months of tirelessly fighting for answers on what happed to her son, Joanne Atkins-Ingram has finally been promised an objective, professional probe—and the information any grieving mother deserves. Joanne and her attorney, Jill Greene of Avon, NJ have stood up, courageously fighting for justice for Braeden and today they have been heard. I will continue to work closely with them to ensure that the college now commissions a truly independent, external investigation driven by a commitment to transparency, truth and accountability.
“Among other things, this investigation should establish a detailed, second-by-second timeline of events on the night of Braeden’s death, with interviews of eyewitnesses who were at Braeden’s last football practice and those who later found him unresponsive. It should review Braeden’s medical records and any workout notes, as well as the college’s policies and protocols for student-athlete health and safety in place at the time of Braeden’s death, including its emergency action plan, and whether any updates to those policies are in line with current best practices. If it is properly done, this investigation could save lives in the future by helping prevent heat stroke deaths through education on best practices."
Bradforth, a 19 year-old from Neptune, NJ, had received a scholarship in July of 2018 to play football at GCCC. On August 1, 2018, his second day on campus, he collapsed after evening football practice and was found unresponsive. After being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, he passed away just hours later due to “exertional heat stroke,” his autopsy later revealed.
The college conducted an internal review of Braeden’s death, but only provided the family—more than nine months after his death—with a grossly inadequate summary of the review, leaving key questions on the timeline of events on the night of Braeden’s death unanswered.
Smith recently met with Braeden’s mother and promised to do everything he could to assist her in her efforts to find out more about her son’s death, and what actions could be taken to prevent such tragedies in the future. On Friday, March 22, Smith sent a letter to Ryan Ruda, President of Garden City Community College, requesting an independent investigation into Bradforth’s death. On April 30, Smith led a letter of the entire NJ House delegation requesting an independent investigation.
After the University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair died in 2018 of heat stroke after football practice, the university commissioned an investigation by a sports medicine consultant, Walters, Inc., that reviewed the college’s protocols for maintaining student-athlete health and safety in light of best practices, and whether they were appropriately implemented. The report assessed the college’s Emergency Action Plan and examined documents relevant to McNair’s death, including his workout notes and medical records.