Education

There was a ‘significant delay’ in providing life-saving treatment for Dunbar player who died, attorney says

Dunbar coach remembers Star Ifeacho: "He touched so many different groups of people"

Paul Laurence Dunbar head basketball coach Scott Chalk spoke Wednesday about sophomore Star Ifeacho, who collapsed at an open-gym session and later died.
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Paul Laurence Dunbar head basketball coach Scott Chalk spoke Wednesday about sophomore Star Ifeacho, who collapsed at an open-gym session and later died.

An attorney for the estate of Paul Laurence Dunbar boys’ basketball player Star Ifeacho, 15, who collapsed at the school during an open gym in April and died, says Star wasn’t given life-saving treatment quickly enough.

In a statement Monday to the Herald-Leader, Louisville attorney Sheila P. Hiestand, who represents Star’s estate and his mother, Peace Ifeacho, said there was a “significant delay” in using an automated external defibrillator, also known as an AED, a portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm.

“Although an AED was supposed to be present in the training room, it had been removed, causing a significant delay in providing life-saving treatment for Star. The autopsy has been completed, and there is nothing in the report to indicate that prompt use of an AED would not have saved Star’s life,” the statement said.

“Star Ifeacho was a tremendous athlete and student who loved playing basketball at Dunbar High School. Sadly, this love of basketball turned to tragedy on April 26, 2017, while at an ‘open gym’ which was being monitored by the Dunbar coaching staff,” the statement said. “During drills, Star complained to his coach that he was suffering from chest pain and it felt as though his heart was racing out of his chest. He was told to sit down. Star eventually sought treatment from Dunbar’s athletic trainer in the training room, where he collapsed.”

A state medical examiner’s report obtained by the Herald-Leader through an open-records request said that Ifeacho died from cardiomyopathy of an unknown cause. Cardiomyopathy is an abnormality of the heart muscle. The report said the heart problem could have been inherited.

A defibrillator was used at the school at some point, according to the state medical examiner’s report.

In addition to the delay in using the defibrillator, the attorney’s statement said, “There was a significant amount of misinformation provided to the EMTs, family and press initially.”

Toxicology tests showed no evidence of drugs or alcohol, the medical examiner’s report said.

Hiestand said Monday that Star’s family was “not pursuing litigation at this time.”

“Star was a beloved member of our Fayette County Public Schools family and we continue to mourn his passing,” district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said. “We cannot and will not respond to the media statements made by the lawyer for the Ifeacho family.”

At the time of Star’s death, school officials had said that some basketball players were working on drills and playing two-on-two basketball games in the presence of coaches and an athletic trainer during open gym. Superintendent Manny Caulk said that Star, a sophomore, had stopped shooting baskets and was with the athletic trainer when he collapsed in the locker room. Caulk said the athletic trainer immediately provided emergency care while 911 was called. When paramedics arrived, Caulk said, they took over his care and transported him to the hospital, where he died.

Star Ifeacho, 15, was remembered during a vigil Monday night attended by more than 1,000 people.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

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