Family seeks answers after 12-year-old son dies during football practice in Newark
A Newark family is trying to get answers after their 12-year-old son collapsed and died during football practice last week. They say that the boy did not have any prior known health issues. They say that if someone in charge of the football program had known CPR, then maybe the boy would still be alive.
Elijah Jordan Brown-Garcia had just turned 12 two months ago. His family says that it was a regular day for him. He went to school, and everything was fine. But they say it was when he went off to football practice that everything changed.
“He was so happy to be there. He didn’t know that it was going to be his last day,” says the boy’s mother, Raven Brown.
Elijah was at practice at the West Side Park football field on Friday when he collapsed. He was a member of the Essex County Predators – a team owned by Bloomfield-based Big 21. He went to practice with his 10-year-old brother.
“No contact. It was just drills running back and forth. He didn’t get hit,” Brown says. “He was a healthy kid…I don’t know why Friday night was his day.”
While the official cause of Elijah’s death is unknown, the Mayo Clinic states that cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in young athletes around the country.
Brown says that it was her 10-year-old son who called her to tell her that Elijah had collapsed and was not responding.
“I said, ‘What are they doing? What is anybody doing?’ And he said, ‘They are pouring water on him, and they are fanning him.’ And that’s when I got my kids together and I said, ‘I’m on my way,’” says Brown.
She says that those on the field called for an ambulance twice and that she called a third time.
“I beat the ambulance there,” Brown says. “Like 30-40 minutes. It took them a long time.”
Elijah was eventually taken to University Hospital where he died.
News 12 New Jersey reached out to University Hospital for more information on the family’s claim that it took too long for an ambulance to arrive but has not yet heard back.
“When the coach called me yesterday…[he said,] ‘Sorry, none of us are CPR-certified,” Brown says.
All New Jersey schools are required to have defibrillators on hand and at least one individual trained in CPR and defibrillation to be present at all practices and events. However, a law passed in 2015 to require the same for youth athletic events outside of school-sanctioned leagues was vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Christie.
“They are neglectful. You can’t run a team like that,” Brown says.
A spokesperson for Big 21 said in a statement, “We are unable to confirm any details at this moment as this matter is currently under investigation.”
"I miss his face. I miss him dancing...I just miss him. I miss everything about him," Brown says.
The family says they are looking into taking legal action. A GoFundMe campaign has been created to help with funeral expenses.