Football player's mom testifies in former coach's trial

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Michelle Crockett dabbed her eyes. Her
voice cracked with emotion.
A year after her 15-year-old son Max Gilpin died from
complications of heat stroke suffered at football practice, it's
still a struggle to recall the way her son looked when she arrived
at Pleasure Ridge Park High on that muggy August evening.
Crockett testified Friday in the trial of former Pleasure Ridge
Park High School coach David Jason Stinson, who has pleaded not
guilty to charges of reckless homicide and wanton endangerment in
the death of Gilpin. The sophomore collapsed while running in
94-degree heat in August 2008 and died three days later.
Stinson's trial is a rare case of a coach being charged in the
on-field death of a player.
Crockett recalled rushing to practice and seeing her oldest son
sitting on a four-wheeler being propped up by two adults. There
were ice packs on his neck. His eyes were half-closed and
bloodshot. He couldn't speak.
Stinson stood at a distance and watched as emergency crews
arrived to take Gilpin and another player to a local hospital. Only
in the emergency room following practice did Stinson approach
There, he admitted running the players in the wilting 94-degree
heat as punishment for loafing during practice.
"He said, "I ran'em. I ran'em hard," Crockett testified.
During the first day of testimony, Crockett told the jury that
her son, an offensive lineman, had wanted to quit at times during
his freshman year but grew enthusiastic following a growth spurt.
He bulked up 220 pounds by the following year.
"I saw him become proud of his size ... the summer before he
died he started to come out of his shell," Crockett testified.
Crockett sobbed quietly as prosecutors showed witnesses pictures
of Gilpin with friends and family. A guitar player who worked on
cars with his father and grandfather when he wasn't on the field,
Gilpin was running "gassers" - a series of wind sprints - when he
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Leland Hulbert said in opening
statements Thursday that Stinson ran a brutal practice the day
Gilpin collapsed, denying players water and putting winning ahead
of safety.
Yet one prosecution witness said signs of heat stroke are
sometimes undetectable for even the most trained eye, and that
coaches are not properly educated on detecting heat-related
Tom Steltenkamp, a certified athletic trainer who gave a
symposium on heat-related illnesses to high school coaches -
including Stinson - in June 2008, testified that heat stroke and
exhaustion symptoms are not always readily apparent. But he said he
only spent 10 minutes talking specifically about heat stroke.
"I do not think they are trained enough," Steltenkamp said
during cross examination by defense attorney Brian Butler.
Steltenkamp said it was a coach's responsibility to monitor how
players are managing themselves during practices, particularly in
the heat. He said having two players hospitalized following a
practice is a "possibility," but is not common.
Butler said Stinson ran a tough practice but wasn't responsible
for the heat stroke that felled Gilpin and never denied him water.
Butler called the prosecution a "witch hunt."
Prosecution witness Julian Tackett, an assistant commissioner
with the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, testified that
coaches can administer water breaks "at their discretion" when
the heat index is under 95 degrees. The heat index was 94 degrees
the day Gilpin collapsed according to Stinson's practice notes.
Gilpin died Aug. 23, 2008, at a Louisville hospital of heat
stroke, sepsis and organ failure. Medical examiners opted not to
perform an autopsy.
The trial, which is expected to last about three weeks, will
continue on Tuesday, when Jeff Gilpin, Max's father, is expected to
testify. Jeff Gilpin was at practice the day his son collapsed.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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