Family Of Long Island Teen Who Died During Football Drill Plans $15M Suit

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The family of a 16-year-old Long Island boy who died when a 10-foot log fell on his head during a preseason high school football drill has filed notice they intend to sue for $15 million in damages.

Joshua Mileto was carrying a 400-pound log with four other players on the football team when it somehow slipped from their hands, struck Mileto on the head and killed him, police said. Detectives preliminarily deemed the death to be accidental.

As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, it was a practice the football team at Sachem East High School will always remember, but wish they could forget.

The Aug. 10 tragedy led to the removal of the high school’s head football coach and an assistant, pending an internal investigation by the school district. The team is scheduled to play its first game of the season on Saturday.

Joshua Mileto

Joshua Mileto (credit: CBS2)

“There was no thought or consideration as to what could, and unfortunately did, happen if the boys lost control of the log or it was dropped for any reason,” Jay Dankner, the attorney representing Mileto’s family, said Thursday.

Dankner called the incident “preventable” and “foreseeable.”

“The recreational and sports training experts we have contacted have unanimously said that it was negligence on the part of the school and football team to have allowed these boys to run this drill and even more reckless to not have supervised or controlled it in any way.” he said.

Dankner said the Mileto family contacted recreational and sports training experts who called it dangerous and reckless to allow such an unsupervised strength and conditioning drill.

Dankner said that while some members of the coaching staff may have been nearby, he contended the players did not receive specific training or supervision on how to perform the drill. Mileto, a wide receiver, was 5-foot-6, 134 pounds.

“It was clearly negligent, it was reckless to have instructed these young boys to do this exercise,” Dankner told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “This exercise is done in training by Navy SEALs and they have problems with it, let alone kids weighing 130 pounds. It’s absurd.”

Notice of the pending lawsuit was filed Wednesday, and is the first step before a formal lawsuit is filed against the Sachem Central School District and Sachem East Touchdown Club Inc. A spokeswoman said the district does not comment on pending litigation.

Club officials, who operated the preseason camp, did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to lose your child and especially in this manner here. This wasn’t an accident, this was a preventable, foreseeable occurrence,” Dankner said. “If someone had just given it some thought. And that’s the real tragedy of it.”

The family will be seeking $7.5 million for the boy’s pain and suffering and $7.5 million for his death.

“They want to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen to any other young man in this country,” Dankner said, adding that the family is heartbroken and is not yet ready to speak publicly about the tragic loss.

The school district will not comment on pending litigation, but its football coach has been described as heartbroken.

“Lost like a classmate, and then his parents lost a child that they loved so much,” said Sachem East student Shyla Berkeley.

The circumstances of the death of the wide receiver sparked an outpouring of grief and support across Long Island.

“It hit everybody very hard,” said Patchogue parent Brian Carrick. “We actually had a little vigil for them with our football group.”

The community is responding to the lawsuit.

“She lost a son due to a tragic accident, and not even money can bring him back,” said Cheryl Banks of Farmingville.

“It’s horrible and it shouldn’t have happened, and they have been doing that practice for many years,” said Deborah Mulry of Brookhaven.

“That’s what the legal system is there for, then, is to give them the avenue to sue the school district if, you know, if it seems wrongful,” said former high school athlete Andrew Holter.

Sachem East is scheduled to kick off its season at home Saturday afternoon. The game was pushed back from Sept. 1.

Players are expected to wear memorial patches on their uniforms.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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