The mother of a high school football player who died after collapsing during practice drills last summer has vowed to get justice for the untimely death of her son.
In an emotional interview with theGrio on Wednesday, Michelle Searcy said her 16-year-old son, Donteria J. Searcy (also known as D.J.), died last August because of negligence. “He died because he was practicing in extreme heat, even though he kept on telling them something was wrong.”
Searcy says in her search for answers, she discovered her son had collapsed hours before his death but the coaches did not bother to call emergency services. “If I can get to the truth then maybe I can save another young person’s life.”
On Tuesday, Michelle and her husband, Carlton, stood alongside Angela Cooper who also claims her teenage son, Isaiah Laurencin, died of heat exhaustion. Laurencin collapsed during football practice at Miramar High School in Florida last July.
During the media conference in Atlanta, it was announced that both families plan to take legal action against a variety of entities regarding the death of their sons. The parents say the high school coaches’ negligence led to their sons’ deaths.
Their attorney, Benjamin Crump, said he sent a letter Monday on behalf of the mother of Isaiah Laurencin to the Broward County School Board in Florida, informing them of her intention to sue. Crump said he also sent a similar letter on behalf of the parents of D.J. Searcy to county commissioners in Ben Hill County, Georgia.
The Broward school board and the Ben Hill County Board of Supervisors declined to comment on the pending lawsuits.
Both teenagers died within hours of collapsing during football drills in soaring heat. Crump, who is also the lawyer for the parents of Trayvon Martin, told theGrio that coaches are making these kids get out in high temperatures and pushing them till their bodies overheat.
“If we don’t do something to make these coaches respect the health and safety of these young people then there will be more tragedies like this,” Crump said. “No football winning season is worth the death of a child.”
Searcy, a 16-year-old defensive lineman at Fitzgerald High School in Georgia, collapsed and died during practice at a summer football camp in Florida on August 2, 2011. Searcy was showing signs of dehydration and had passed out the night before, but was still expected to show up for training the next day, said Crump.
Laurencin, a 16-year-old offensive lineman, was participating in conditioning drills at Miramar High School in Florida on July 26, 2011, when he collapsed and later died. After Laurencin’s death, an autopsy performed by the Broward County Medical Examiner’s office concluded a number of factors contributed to his death, including a sickle cell trait, hypertension and the hot weather during the long practice drill.
But attorney Crump is skeptical of the sickle cell trail link. “The Sickle cell trait is a benign blood disorder one out of every 4 or 5 people of color have,” Crump told theGrio. “People with the trait don’t just fall down and die. That’s just an excuse they throw up to justify negligence or wrongdoing.”
In 2006, attorney Crump represented the parents in the Martin Anderson case. The 14-year-old boy died soon after he was beaten by guards at a boot camp in northwest Florida. At first medical experts said Anderson died of complications caused by sickle cell trait, but a second autopsy revealed the teenager did not die from natural causes.
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina, 40 high school football players have died from heat stroke in a period of less than 20 years.
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