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Family sues Sachem, booster club over death in football drill

Joshua Mileto, 16, died in August after he was struck by a log he and his high school teammates were carrying overhead during a summer camp.

The family of Joshua Mileto, 16, a member

The family of Joshua Mileto, 16, a member of the Sachem High School East football team who was killed in an August football camp drill, has sued the school district and booster club over the teenager's death. Photo Credit: Mileto Family

The family of a Sachem High School East football player who died in August during a training drill on school grounds sued the school district and a booster club on Wednesday, alleging the boy’s death was a result of the defendants’ “negligence.”

The wrongful death lawsuit — filed in state Supreme Court in Riverhead against the Sachem Central School District and the Sachem East Touchdown Club — did not specify the amount of monetary damages sought by the family of Joshua Mileto, 16, who died Aug. 10.

Jay W. Dankner of Manhattan, the lawyer representing the family, said the Miletos are seeking $15 million in damages.

Mileto, a junior, was a participant in a summer football camp for high school players. The camp was organized by the parent-run booster group and run by school staff, including Sachem East football coaches.

At the time, Mileto and four players were carrying a log, several hundred pounds in weight, above their heads and shoulders as part of the training exercise, according to the lawsuit. Mileto died after he fell during the relay and was struck by the log.

“His neck was crushed by this thing,” Dankner said in an interview.

In the lawsuit, Sayyida Lynn Ancharski-Mileto, the teenager’s mother, said the school district and the booster club are “liable and responsible for the actions of those persons who took part or assisted” in running the camp.

“We miss our son everyday,” the Mileto family said in a statement sent through their lawyer. “Our concern has always been and continues to be the safety of high school football players everywhere. Our hope in beginning this lawsuit today is that there will be accountability for what happened to Josh and to make sure that it never happens again.”

Sachem Superintendent Kenneth Graham’s office referred calls to Syntax Communication Group, a Farmingville-based marketing and consulting firm the district hired to represent it.

A spokeswoman for Syntax said the school district had no comment.

The lawsuit asserted that from the time the log struck Mileto until his death, the teenager suffered “conscious pain and suffering and fear of impending death.”

The suit also maintained that Mileto’s closest living relatives, which Dankner said are the boy’s parents and his three brothers, “lost his services and companionship and were pecuniarily damaged.”

Dankner said it was careless and negligent for the coaches to instruct teenage boys to run a drill that poses difficulties for Army Green Berets and Marines.

“Who thought of such a stupid thing,” Dankner asked.

In August, the school district reassigned head football coach Mark Wojciechowski and an unidentified assistant coach in the wake of Mileto’s death and said it was conducting its own investigation.

The district spokeswoman would not say whether the district completed its investigation and declined to provide any information regarding the coaches’ assignments.

Frank Raia, an attorney representing the Sachem East Touchdown Club, did not return calls for comment.

In a notice of claim sent to school district officials in September, Ancharski-Mileto said the football players were not properly instructed on how to conduct the log-carrying drill and camp coaches failed to supervise the activity and provide proper medical care. A notice of claim is a required first step before filing a lawsuit against a school district.

Dankner has said it will be critical to learn who oversaw the log-carrying drill and who was responsible for the camp’s coaches — the school district, the parent-run booster club or both.

The district, in response to a Freedom of Information Law request by Newsday, said last month that there was no contract or financial exchange with the booster club for the use of the fields for the camp.

The district also said in it’s FOIL response it did not have a copy of the insurance policy that would have potentially covered the booster club’s camp.

Suffolk police investigated Mileto’s death and determined no criminal charges were warranted.

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