A Kentucky university has agreed to a settlement of more than $14m over the death of a student wrestler during practice, the institution said in a statement.
The settlement reached on Wednesday over the death of 20-year-old Grant Brace of Louisville, Tennessee, includes an agreement for the University of the Cumberlands to participate in a heat-illness training program and to help raise awareness of heat-related injuries.
Brace’s death, on 31 August 2020 from heat stroke after he begged for water and was refused, “was tragic and entirely avoidable”, the lawsuit said.
Brace was diagnosed with narcolepsy and ADHD and was prescribed Adderall which requires maintaining hydration, according to the lawsuit.
He died during the wrestling team’s first training day of the season. After practice, the team had to sprint multiple times up and down a steep hill and Brace completed several circuits before sitting down from exhaustion. Brace’s coach threatened to kick him off the team, so he ran up the hill again and, according to the lawsuit, was later heard saying “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.”
He begged for water and his condition continued to deteriorate, but the coaches didn’t provide water or contact the trainer or emergency medical personnel, according to the lawsuit. Brace left and tried to drink from an outdoor water fountain that was not working. He also tried to get into a building but could not, and he collapsed. About 45 minutes later, the coaches found him dead with his hands clenched in the grass and dirt, according to the suit.
Two of the coaches named in the lawsuit as creating an “atmosphere of fear of intimidation” are no longer employed by the college.
The university said in a statement that it believed it could defend the claims asserted in the lawsuit, but “the legal process would have been long, difficult, and costly, ending years from now in a trial with an uncertain outcome.”
It said the safety of students and athletes is a top priority and it “welcomes the opportunity to work with the Brace family’s consultant to ensure it is providing the safest environment possible for student-athletes in all sports.”
Brace was also a talented football player and a member of the National Honors Society.
“Grant was a talented, well-liked young man entering his junior year with a bright future ahead of him,” the university’s chancellor, Jerry Jackson, said in a statement. “Our University community continues to mourn his untimely loss. We sincerely hope that resolving this matter early in the legal process will offer the Brace family a measure of peace and healing.”
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