This story was reported by Jim Baumbach, Laura Blasey, Nicole Fuller, Chau Lam, William Murphy, Gregg Sarra, Joie Tyrrell and Rachel Uda. It was written by Fuller.
An 11th-grade student at Sachem High School East died Thursday morning after a log fell on his head during a training drill at an offseason football camp on school grounds in Farmingville, officials said.
Joshua Mileto, 16, of Farmingville, was participating in a strength and conditioning camp at the school at 177 Granny Rd., police said. Five athletes were performing a drill carrying a log overhead — with Mileto somewhere in the middle — when “the log fell and struck” him, police said.
Mileto’s injury was reported at 8:40 a.m. and he was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Suffolk County Police Assistant Commissioner Justin Meyers said.
Meyers also confirmed that another player from the same team was injured Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. and was taken to Stony Brook with nonlife-threatening injuries. Police did not release that player’s name.
A woman who identified herself as Mileto’s mother in a Facebook post thanked family, friends and members of the Sachem community for an “outpouring of love and support.”
“We are absolutely beyond devastated,” she wrote, asking for privacy.
Sachem Central School District Superintendent Kenneth Graham, in a written statement Thursday afternoon, didn’t name Mileto but said “the student passed away from injuries suffered during an offseason football workout early this morning.”
“The district is devastated by this horrific accident and words cannot express the grief we feel as a school community,” Graham said. “We extend our deepest condolences to the student’s family and friends during this terribly difficult time.”
“We have enacted our Crisis Intervention Team and support services will be made available to students and staff for as long as needed as we mourn and try to cope with this loss,” Graham said.
A Sachem school district representative said counseling will be available at both district high schools Friday and all activities were canceled Thursday and during the weekend. The football program will start Monday, the representative said.
Suffolk Homicide Squad detectives are investigating Mileto’s death and ask anyone with information to contact the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392. Homicide detectives investigate all nonnatural deaths.
Detectives have already interviewed the coaches, police said. Six to seven adults, including coaches and trainers, were at the training session, which included varsity and junior varsity players, police said.
Police said it’s not known at this point why the log was dropped and whether wet grass or the weight of the log — which police couldn’t immediately provide — were factors.
The log-carrying drill was designed to build teamwork in Navy SEALS training, said Bob O’Malley, president of the New York State Athletic Trainers Association. “I’ve never seen that drill in an athletic setting,” O’Malley said.
Photographs taken in the aftermath of the incident showed two solid-wood logs resembling telephone poles lying on the field, each about 10 feet long.
Mileto was participating in the six-week Sachem East Summer Football camp, which ran from July 5 to Aug. 11, and cost $325.
The camp, according to its website, focused on improving speed, agility and conditioning skills.
State athletic officials said conditioning workouts are common at this time of year.
“It’s a real tragic situation as a young individual has lost his life,” said Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, which is the governing body of Suffolk County high school athletics. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and the Sachem district.”
High school football teams in New York can begin official practice on Monday. The only rule for offseason practice is that it cannot be mandatory, according to New York State Public High School Athletic Association executive director Robert Zayas.
“Schools across the state right now during the summer, especially this time of year, are doing conditioning, they’re doing weight lifting, they’re doing an awful lot of nonmandatory workouts in preparation for the season starting on Monday,” Zayas said.
Zayas said there are no state-mandated restrictions on the type of football drills that take place during the offseason practice.
Combs said the offseason workouts are open to interpretation by individual schools.
“Sometimes coaches are in attendance and sometimes trainers are there, but it can’t be mandatory,” Combs said. “It’s up to the individual schools on how they handle offseason workouts.”
With James Carbone