Trenton Times report on KS college investigation that Smith asked forKansas college will investigate N.J. football player’s death after practice
The Kansas junior college where former Neptune High School football standout Braeden Bradforth died on his first day of practice last summer will hire an outside law firm to investigate the 19-year-old’s death, the Garden City Community College Board of Trustees voted Tuesday night.
“After a time of advisement from counsel, the GCCC Board of trusteeshas authorized President (Ryan) Ruda and college attorney Randy Grisell to begin the process of retaining outside counsel for the purpose of conducting an independent, external investigation into the August 1, 2018, death of GCCC student-athlete Braeden Bradforth,” read a statement from GCCC, a junior college football powerhouse where Bradforth had hoped to continue on a path to the NFL.
“The Board also stipulated that retention of counsel and the investigation are not to exceed $100,000.”
An autopsy report by the Finney County Coroner’s office in Kansas indicated Bradforth, a 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman, died of “exertional heat stroke,” after an evening conditioning session, when players ran 36 50-yard sprints in rapid succession, with temperatures in the 80s and high humidity. Bradforth showed signs of distress during the session and skipped a team meeting afterward, before being found slumped outside his dorm in a semi-conscious state, the report indicated.
His mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram, said players told her they were not given water during the session.
A summary of the internal review conducted by GCCC said Bradforth was found at 9:40 p.m. by a teammate, who told an assistant coach, who notified the head coach at the time, Jeff Sims, who told the assistant to contact the team trainer. The trainer called 911, and an ambulance took Bradforth to nearby St. Catherine’s Hospital, where he arrived just after 10:30 p.m., and was pronounced dead at 11:06.
Atkins-Ingram welcomed the trustees’ decision, after she and her lawyer had spent months pressing for an independent probe following what she characterized as “stonewalling” by college officials and the failure of local authorities to investigate her son’s death.
“It’s about time,” said Atkins-Ingram, who still lives in the house in Neptune where Braeden and his older brother grew up. “I think the pressure from all of us here really did the trick. I think they thought we would just go away, but we wouldn’t.”
Atkins-Ingram has had help from elected officials including her congressman, Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th District), who tried to broker a meeting with the GCCC president and then led New Jersey’s entire House delegation in a letter urging the college to commission an independent investigation beyond its internal review.
Smith issued a statement on Wednesday welcoming the trustees’ authorization of the investigation.
“We—especially Braeden’s mother Joanne—hope that today’s announcement will prove to be a very important step towards true transparency," Smith stated. “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.”
Atkins-Ingram’s lawyer, Jill Greene of Avon-by-the-Sea, has sent a notice of tort claim formally advising the college of Atkins-Ingram’s intention to file a lawsuit over her son’s death, and recently she retained a local co-counsel licensed to practice in Kansas for the purpose of filing the suit.
After months of rocky relations with the college, Atkins-Ingram and Greene said they were both skeptical yet hopeful that the investigation would be thorough and unflinching.
“I like to take a positive attitude,” Greene said. “This is all about getting Joanne the answers to the questions she’s been asking for a long time.”
The president of the GCCC board of trustees, Dr. Blake Wasinger, said in an email on Wednesday that the independent probe he and the board authorized on Tuesday was, “the most logical next step,” in the process, following an internal review conducted by college staff soon after Bradforth’s death.
Wasinger also addressed criticism of GCCC levied by Bradforth’s mother and others.
“The perception is the college is unwilling to give answers to the family or has interfered with information about the death of Braden,” Wasinger wrote. “The truth is that GCCC administration and board of trustees are not hiding anything and we welcome this external review.”
“This is an unfortunate tragedy, but it should not be clouded with misinformation or misrepresentation of the facts,” Wassinger added. “We very much desire communication with Brandon’s family and continue to offer open discussion to extend our condolences. The reality is these processes take time, perhaps never as quickly as some may want. An outside review may be able to answer those questions the family is still seeking and/or confirm the internal review findings.”