UCF documents don't answer questions about Plancher's death
A University of Central Florida assistant athletic trainer wrote that a wide receiver who collapsed and died during an offseason conditioning session "never once complained or said anything to indicate that he was feeling weak, sick, hurt, light-headed, etc.," according to a document released Monday by the school.The assistant trainer, Robert Jackson, wrote in a statement as part of the university's investigation that Ereck Plancher fell down about 20 yards into a 100-yard sprint at the end of a series of conditioning drills, but Jackson said Plancher got up and finished, "although he appeared to be exhausted." The document was one of two UCF released Monday in the wake of pressure from ESPN and the Orlando Sentinel, which repeatedly have asked the university to provide documents related to Plancher's death as part of Florida's public records laws. UCF previously released more than 100 pages of documents, but virtually all of them consisted of e-mails between the university and media outlets that shed little light on the events surrounding Plancher's death. The school has refused to release additional material, citing exemptions to the open records laws. On March 18 this spring, Plancher, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman wide receiver from Naples, Fla., collapsed and died at the end of a conditioning session. An "Outside the Lines" report three weeks ago raised questions about UCF's handling of the Plancher case before, during and after he collapsed. Two players who participated in the workout before leaving the team, James Jamison and Jevaughn Reams, spoke on the record to "OTL," and others commented anonymously. Together, the players detailed an intense workout in which they said trainers and coaches were not attentive to Plancher's struggles. The players also contradicted the school's contention that the workout was "routine" and "not taxing." As well, Cliff McCray, another former player who was on the team and living with Plancher at the time of the incident, recently described the training session in several exclusive phone interviews with "OTL." McCray's version corroborates that of the other players, and he said the account offered by coach George O'Leary and athletic director Keith Tribble "wasn't accurate." "No one is going to say, 'Yes, I ran a kid to death,' but you can be honest about it," McCray said. O'Leary, Tribble and others associated with the football program have repeatedly declined interview requests. A UCF spokesman said Monday, "During this difficult and emotional period, UCF has responded with respect for Ereck's family and a thorough review of the facts. From what we have learned to date, our review of the March 18 workout has shown that coaches and staff acted appropriately."Plancher's parents have notified the university of their intent to sue for wrongful death. The UCF documents did not include any of Plancher's medical records, though his family had given permission for the school to release them to ESPN. Nor did UCF respond to requests for material related to player interviews, which apparently didn't begin until more than a month after Plancher's death. Jamison, Reams and McCray said they were never questioned about what happened. In Jackson's statement, the assistant trainer said that after Plancher completed the final sprint of the conditioning session, "I went over to his side as he was bending over and talked to him, although he didn't say much of anything, he nodded his head and complied with instructions. I told him to stand upright and to concentrate on breathing with short breaths in his nose and out of his mouth." Jackson, who a school spokesman said has since left UCF for another job, further stated that when the team huddled in front of O'Leary at the end of practice, Plancher appeared attentive. Jackson wrote that O'Leary initially sent the players, including Plancher, back to the line for another sprint but ultimately called them back. When O'Leary had finished speaking, "It was at this time of dismissal that I saw Plancher kind of fall down, but his teammates collected him and brought him back to a standing position with one player on each side," Jackson said in his statement. Jackson said he went to Plancher to monitor his vital signs. "He was responsive and breathing heavily, but not gasping." Jackson said he told Plancher to control his breathing and the player was able to do so. Jackson wrote that he asked if Plancher was cramping, but the player, apparently struggling to speak, responded by shaking his head to indicate he was not cramping. The assistant trainer told Plancher, who was being held up by two teammates, that he intended to walk him outside for some water to cool down. "He did not move or walk his feet, so four athletes picked him up from me and started to carry him out," Jackson wrote. The assistant trainer said he directed the players to put Plancher down so he could monitor his progress, but the players then picked their teammate back up to carry him outside. "Coach O'Leary called me over and asked what was wrong and I told him exhaustion and dehydration," Jackson wrote.Landov MediaEreck Plancher would have been a redshirt freshman for Central Florida this season. The circumstances surrounding his death in March are still at issue.
Did Ereck Plancher have to die? Earlier this month, "Outside the Lines" raised serious questions about the University of Central Florida's treatment of the redshirt freshman last March. Read and watch Mark Fainaru-Wada's investigation here.
Documenting a death
In response to pressure from ESPN and the Orlando Sentinel for documents related to Ereck Plancher's death, the University of Central Florida on Monday released two statements from its training staff given during the school's internal investigation.
Read them here.
• Statements from UCF training staff. PDF
In the course of ESPN's six-month investigation into Plancher's death, "Outside the Lines" independently obtained a number of documents that detail the efforts to save him on the day he collapsed during a training session, as well as the university's health screen that showed Plancher carried sickle-cell trait, and the Plancher family's notice of intent to sue for wrongful death.
Read them here.
• The UCF Police Department's Incident Report. PDF
• The Orange County Fire Rescue Department Incident Report. PDF
• The Orange County Medical Examiner's statement. PDF
• Lab results showing that Plancher suffered from sickle-cell trait. PDF
• The Plancher family's notice of intent to sue. PDF
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