MISSOULA, MONT. (CN) – Parents claim Bigfork School District No. 38 killed their son by forcing him to practice twice a day in high heat, in air contaminated by wildfires, and that when their son collapsed, coaches hollered at him and pulled at his clothing to make him get up and run some more.
Jeffrey Bowman collapsed on the first day of football practice, Aug. 13, 2007, and died a week later.
Robert and Theresa Bowman say Bigfork High School and its football coach and athletic director let their son practice without his doctor’s approval.
Visibility during that day’s second, evening, practice was less than 1.3 miles because of smoke from wildfires, the complaint states. The Bowmans say Jeffrey collapsed shortly after 8 p.m. while running repeat, timed laps, “with demanding physical exercised performed between each lap.”
The complaint states: “In his second lap Jeffrey eventually fell to the ground. The first coach to arrive yelled at Jeffrey to get up and get going. As he did so, he reached out and grabbed Jeffrey by the shirt. Then another coach came over, reached down, grabbed the inside of the waistline on Jeffrey’s pants, lifted him off the ground, and then dropped him onto the ground.”
Eventually, Jeffrey was airlifted to a hospital, where he died of “several injuries, including cardiac arrest and a resulting anoxic brain injury,” the complaint states.
The Missoulian newspaper reported that the Montana High School Association fined Big Fork High School $50 for letting Bowman practice without turning in a form showing he had undergone a doctor’s physical exam.
The school district, through its attorneys, disputed the Bowmans’ description of the coaches’ response, which Bigfork says was appropriate.
The Bowmans describe that report as a whitewash that provided false information to the public and withheld other information “to conceal the fault of the defendants and shift blame to the victims.”
The Bowmans also sued head coach Bruce Corbett and athletic director Shannon Smith. The Missoulian reported that Corbett was in his first year as head coach when the incident occurred.
The Bowmans are represented by Todd Glazier of Kalispell.