High School Football

PRP coach charged in player's death

LOUISVILLE — A Kentucky high school football coach was charged Thursday with reckless homicide in the death of one of his players who collapsed at practice on a hot day.

A grand jury indicted David Jason Stinson in the death of Pleasure Ridge Park offensive lineman Max Gilpin. Stinson was directing practice on Aug. 20 when the heat index reached 94 degrees in Louisville, where the school is. Gilpin, 15, collapsed and had trouble breathing. When the sophomore reached Kosair Children's Hospital, he had a temperature of 107 degrees and died there three days later.

The reckless homicide charge means grand jurors didn't find that Stinson's actions were intentional or malicious, said Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel. However, Stengel said, "a reasonable man should have realized something like this could have occurred."

Stinson's attorney, Alex Dathorne, told The Associated Press that the coach maintains his innocence and looks forward to "bringing out the whole story."

"We're certainly disappointed in the grand jury's decision to indict," Dathorne said.

Stengel said Stinson, who coached the 2008 season, will surrender Monday at his arraignment and probably will remain free pending trial.

Stengel said he reviewed the actions of five assistant coaches who were on the field that day and determined they committed no criminal act.

Lauren Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Public Schools, said she's aware of the indictment, but the school system had not been formally notified about the charge.

"We'll be making a determination about his status with the district," Roberts said.

Elden May, a Kentucky High School Athletic Association spokesman, declined to comment.

Stinson asked to testify in front of the grand jurors but they declined to hear him, Stengel said. The grand jury heard only from a Louisville Metro Police detective.

Gilpin's parents, Glenna Michele Crockett and Jeffrey Dean Gilpin, sued Stinson and the five assistant coaches in state court, accusing them of negligence and "reckless disregard."

Along with the lawsuit and criminal investigation, the school system has been conducting its own investigation.

Bill Letton, head football coach at Lexington Catholic High School, said he was "pretty shocked" to learn of the indictment.

"It's a tragedy from a lot of different viewpoints," he said.

However, Craig Foley, head coach at Frankfort High School, said he was not surprised "one bit."

"Coaches are going to get blamed," he said. "That's just part of the duties you take on."

Kentucky High School Athletic Association guidelines govern how practices are to be conducted and when they must be cancelled because of heat.

Foley said the organization has made those rules a priority over the last several years.

"It's something that they're really starting to enforce and push," he said.

In 2007, the parents of 16-year-old Henderson County High school football player Ryan Owens filed a wrongful death suit against their son's coaches and school officials, as well as the Henderson County Board of Education and the KHSAA.

The boy collapsed and died after a football practice in July 2006. A state medical examiner determined that Owens had a rare heart defect that was exacerbated by the heat.

Both coaches said their schools contract with trainers who take heat index readings in the summer and help ensure that KHSAA's safety rules are followed.

Letton said his players take five-minute water breaks at least every 20 minutes, but they may break more depending on how hot it gets.

"Kids can lose a lot of fluids in a short period of time," he said.

But, he added, "You can't control that they eat right. You can't control that they hydrate themselves" outside of practice.