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Braeden Bradforth: After scathing report, accountability needed in death of Neptune star

APP.com (Asbury Park, NJ) logo APP.com (Asbury Park, NJ) 11/16/2019 Stephen Edelson, Asbury Park Press
A scathing independent investigation found  a series of mistakes at Garden City Community College led to the death of former Neptune High School star Braeden Bradforth. © Jill Greene A scathing independent investigation found a series of mistakes at Garden City Community College led to the death of former Neptune High School star Braeden Bradforth.

It's not an easy read as the tragic events of Aug. 1, 2018 are laid out in painstaking detail by an independent investigation into the heatstroke death of former Neptune High School star Braeden Bradforth at Garden City (Kansas) Community College.

Like the events that played out during the brutal conditioning test the 315-pound Bradforth was trying to complete on a hot evening. How one player told investigators that Braden looked like he was going to pass out, and how former Garden City head coach Jeff Sims, "cussed out Braden, stating that he was soft … that embarrassed Braeden in front of the whole team and that Braeden kept trying to run to try to prove that he wasn’t soft."

Or the extended timeline in getting help for Bradforth once he was found in distress due to a delay in calling an EMS crew that might have been able to save his life in the aftermath of a test, which involved running 36 50-yard sprints in eight seconds or less.

Read the full report at the bottom of this story.

Now it’s time to hold those responsible for Bradforth’s death accountable, including the school and Sims, now the head coach at Missouri Southern State University, after leading Garden City to the National Junior College Athletic Association National Championship in 2016.

"All of the facts laid out about how unprepared that athletic program is for what it’s trying to do," said attorney Chris Dove, retained by Bradforth’s mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram. "Trying to be this big athletic powerhouse on the backs of all these kids, many who are not from Kansas, to promote the school, and for the coaches to, in some cases, move up the career ladder.

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"They’re not at all prepared for what they need to do to support those athletes. It’s not a small thing to drag these kids out to Kansas in the middle of summer and put them through their paces like it’s a rec league."

The scathing report did not mince words when it came to the school’s culpability, citing a "striking lack of leadership" from the school president down through the head coach and athletic staff. It noted that once Bradforth was in distress not enough was done to save him, indicating that "an effective plan likely would have rescued him from what turned out to be his untimely death."

Herbert Swender, the school president named in the report, has since left Garden City.

Ex-Neptune football player death: College tells mom video deleted after tragedy

No investigation was ever launched by the Garden City Police Department into Bradforth’s death.

Garden City, Missouri Southern, and Sims declined USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey's request to comment on the results of the investigation.

Braeden Bradforth: Emails show chaos before Neptune football player’s death

"If the (Garden City) has any sense they are going to reach out to us and say, 'Hey, let’s go sit down in a conference room and talk,'" said Dove, a partner at DRZ Law in Leawood, Kansas. "I don’t know how they don’t with that kind of report out there. It implicates a lot more than just a single error. It’s not like you missed one thing. No, you missed a long chain of events and then, frankly, there is an enhanced legal problem because it clearly demonstrates some reckless behavior.

a man smiling for the camera: Neptune native Braeden Bradforth died of heat stroke following a football practice at Garden City (Kan.) Community College on Aug. 1, 2018. © Joanne Atkins-Ingram Neptune native Braeden Bradforth died of heat stroke following a football practice at Garden City (Kan.) Community College on Aug. 1, 2018.

``If they don’t really want to face up to that responsibility, then I guess we’re going to be looking at a lawsuit stretching over a couple of years. This goes beyond Braeden. There are some serious institutional failures there that they need to address."

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According to the press release from Garden City, the school has sought to improve its processes in the aftermath of Bradforth’s death, including: formation of a sports medicine advisory team; hiring a third athletic trainer; first-aid and CPR training for all coaches; hiring a strength and conditioning coach; protocols for identifying and treating heat related illnesses.  

"I’m very, very happy about this report because it certainly gives Joanne a fuller picture about what happened," Dove said. "I think it’s also important for public to see it as well.

"Unfortunately,  the facts of this case are as bad as I've seen. They're awful in terms of lack of institutional control and lack of institutional oversight, and then down to the individual coaches and their own responsibilities, have some knowledge about how to deal with what was a very preventable death. So all of those facts are horrible. But I would say that this absence of institutional oversight when it comes to educational institutions is not all that unusual.''

Stephen Edelson is a USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey sports columnist who has been covering athletics in the state and at the Jersey Shore for nearly 35 years. He’s passionate about the area’s rich sports history, and the history being made today. Contact him at: @SteveEdelsonAPP; sedelson@gannettnj.com.

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Braeden Bradforth: After scathing report, accountability needed in death of Neptune star

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