WASHINGTON, D.C.— “Braeden Bradforth would have been 20 years old today, and his death from heat stroke was entirely preventable,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who has been fighting with Braeden’s family to obtain basic information on his death from Garden City Community College in Kansas, where he passed away last August. “He was a healthy kid one day and dead the next—what happened on that fateful evening during football practice? Who found him unresponsive afterwards? Why was EMS not immediately called?”
“Crucial questions like these remain unanswered nine months later,” Smith said. “The college has the power—and responsibility—to open its books, commission an external investigation, and be completely transparent with Braeden’s mother Joanne. That has not happened, and it’s a disgrace.”
Bradforth received a football scholarship from GCC. His autopsy reported that he died of exertional heat stroke, just hours after football practice on the evening of August 1, 2018, his second day on campus.
The report said that Braeden walked off the practice field by himself, away from teammates who were headed to a team meeting, and did not respond to a trainer. He was found after the team meeting slumped against a wall and unresponsive but breathing, was taken in an ambulance to a local hospital, and died shortly afterward.
“We need to know how Braeden died so that we can help prevent these senseless tragedies from happening again,” Smith said. “An independent investigation will uncover valuable information about how Braeden’s heat stroke was addressed or treated, and what could be done in the future to prevent this from happening to other young athletes.”
After meeting with Joanne in March, Smith wrote Garden City CC President Ryan Ruda requesting an external, independent, thorough investigation into Braeden’s death to establish a detailed timeline of events on the night of his death, review the school’s policies for student athlete health and safety, and help prevent against future heat stroke tragedies.
Ruda initially responded to Smith’s request that due to a liability insurance notice of claim, “the college is not at liberty to speak further on the matter.” Several weeks later, in a phone call with Rep. Smith, President Ruda agreed to meet with him and Joanne in person and discuss some of the details of the school’s internal review of Braeden’s death.
However, the college then changed its position once again, limiting the parameters of the meeting and saying through a lawyer that the internal review would not be discussed; only a brief, woefully inadequate summary of the review was shared with the family. The meeting was then postponed until the school agreed to be fully transparent and open up the details of the internal review to Braeden’s family.
“The college has lacked basic human decency—it reportedly conducted an internal review of Braeden’s death but did not share the results with Joanne for months,” Smith said. “Then it provided her a grossly inadequate ‘summary’ of the review by a vested college employee. Joanne has had to fight tooth and nail to get whatever information she could about what happened to her son.”
“She deserves answers, so that she doesn’t have to spend one more day wondering what happened on August 1,” Smith said. “And by the way,” Smith said, “Sunday is Mother’s Day.”