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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Fatal Heart Attack at Cross-Country Meet

BUFFALO, N.Y. (CN) - A father blames a school district and the state's high school athletic association for the wrongful death of his son, who suffered cardiac arrest while warming up for the 2012 state high school cross-country championships in suburban Buffalo.

Ronan Guyer, 14, of Long Island, died five days after he slipped on mud during a practice run and hit the ground hard with his chest, an aunt told a local news website. She said the boy, who had no history of heart issues, and also sailed and played tennis and lacrosse, was put into a medically induced coma at Women & Children's Hospital in Buffalo until he died.

Ronan's father, Stephen Guyer, claims in Erie County Supreme Court that no ambulance, trained personnel or defibrillator was on site to respond to the emergency.

"As a result of the defendants' negligence, Ronan suffered severe personal injuries and experienced conscious pain and suffering, including psychological and emotional fear of his death," the father claims in the lawsuit. "Defendants' negligence also caused Ronan's death."

Named as defendants are the Southold Union Free School District in Suffolk County, where the Ronan was freshman member of the varsity cross-country team; Erie County, which owns the Elma Meadows Golf Course east of Buffalo, site of the 2012 state championships; the Jamison Road Volunteer Fire Co., which was under contract to provide an ambulance to the weekend event; and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association and its Section VI affiliate in Western New York, which organized the championships.

Guyer claims the defendants "negligently failed to take adequate safety measures that would have prevented Ronan's death."

He claims they had neither "appropriate" medical personnel nor an automated external defibrillator (AED) at the site when his son collapsed.

According to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, whenever school-sponsored events are held at sites other than a public school facility, "the public school officials must assure that AED equipment is provided on site."

The NYSPHSAA website states that a 2002 law requires that every school building in use in New York have at least one functioning AED and a trained user in case of emergency, during the school day and when the building hosts approved after-school activities, including athletic events.

The NYSPHSAA-sponsored cross-country championships close out the fall running season; they usually are held in November, at rotating sites across the state.

Guyer claims the Jamison Road volunteer fire company, which "was contracted to provide an ambulance" at the championships, "negligently failed to attend the championships; negligently failed to disclose that it would not attend; and negligently failed to contact another fire house to provide an ambulance."

"Therefore," the lawsuit states, "Jamison's negligence caused the championships to proceed without an ambulance on site, which would have prevented Ronan's death."

The father says his son was treated by emergency medical technicians, "who were able to restore a pulse," and sent him to a hospital.

The complaint does not state who supplied the EMTs.

Guyer seeks damages for negligence and wrongful death.

School Superintendent David Gamberg said in an email Monday that he had "no comment at this time."

The Guyers are represented by Kevin English and Michael Silverstein of Phillips Lytle in Buffalo.

A hard blow to the heart at precisely the wrong moment in its cycle can stun it into stopping. Several fatal and near-fatal incidents have been reported, for instance, from line drives in baseball.

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