Last summer, 15-year-old Nicholas Dellaventura collapsed and died after a football conditioning sessions at St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School in Staten Island.
A year later, his mother thinks the adults who had been overseeing him should be held liable. Earlier this month, Maria Dellaventura sued the school, five of its employees, and the Archdiocese of New York.
The complaint, first reported by Courthouse News Service, claims that Dellaventura died from heat stroke.
It happened on July 23, 2012. Dellaventura had finished a 90-minute off-season workout with teammates. The 5-foot-8, 210-pound offensive lineman had played JV as a freshman and was preparing to step into a bigger role for his sophomore season. The group took a knee to hear coach Rich Clark speak.
The New York Post reported at the time that, according to New York Archdiocese spokeswoman Fran Davies, “As Clark addressed the team, coaches and teammates realized Dellaventura was struggling to breathe and couldn’t stand up on his own.”
The called 911 and an ambulance rushed him to Staten Island University Hospital. He died there.
The workout, for which Dellaventura wore shorts and T-shirts, had started in the late afternoon. Dellaventura reached the hospital at 6:09 p.m. And the day hadn’t been particularly hot–in the mid-80s, CBS News reported.
A week after the death, news outlets reported that initial autopsy reports had been inconclusive as to the cause of death. There were signs, however, that pointed to heat stroke. The boy’s body temperature soared, and he succumbed to cardiac arrest.
On July 31, 2012, Dellaventura’s death was briefly mentioned in a New York Times story headlined, “Families of Athletes to Sue Over Heat-Related Deaths.”
The story focused on two families, one from Georgia and one from Florida, “whose sons died last summer after strenuous workouts” and who were “suing in hopes of holding school officials accountable.”
Over the past 20 years, the Times noted, 40 high school football players had died from heat stroke, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.
The article continued:
Most of the deaths have taken place during initial summer workouts, when the heat index is high and players are out of shape, said Lesley Vandermark of the Korey Stringer Institute, which seeks to prevent deaths in sports, particularly heat-related ones. Mr. Stringer, who played for the Minnesota Vikings, died of heat stroke after a practice in 2001.
Most of these deaths are preventable, Ms. Vandermark said, adding that high school coaches need to be better educated about heat stroke and need to move slowly into conditioning sessions.
Whether that was the case with Dellaventura’s death and whether that means his school should be held liable will now be for the courts to decide.