FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Teammates of a Long Island high school football player who died during a training exercise last summer are seeking to file a lawsuit against their school district.
Three families are asking a judge for permission to file a late notice of claim to sue the Sachem School District claiming emotional harm.
In August of 2017, 16-year-old Joshua Mileto died when a 400-pound log slipped and hit him in the head. Football players were carrying the log over their heads as part of a team drill at Sachem East High School in Farmingville.
Team captain Matthew Kmiotek said it’s difficult to talk about that day.
“It’s very hard to cope with,” he said at a news conference Wednesday. “It’s something that’s burned into my head. I think about it a lot.”
“Under the law when it deals with emotional distress, there’s a duty to protect all those in what’s called the ‘zone of danger,'” attorney Ken Mollins said. “All of the team members who were carrying the log that day were in the ‘zone of danger,’ they feared for their own safety.”
Parents say their sons are racked with grief and unable to sleep. They say the district provided only two, 40-minute therapy sessions, failing to make good on promises to support the traumatized teammates who desperately needed group counseling.
“Every one of those children need help,” said dad Michaeil Paolucci. “Every one of them.”
“The nightmares, these kids, they wouldn’t got to sleep,” one mom said. “They were taking the drinks to stay awake so they wouldn’t have to close their eyes.”
“I think the school decided to stop helping us because they really felt it wasn’t their fault,” said Kmiotek.
Two coaches were reassigned following the tragedy. A police investigation found no criminal fault in the pre-season accident, but families are seeking $15 million in damaged for their sons, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
“I believe what the school district should have done was bring this Long Island trauma network into the school,” said Paolucci. “You and all of us here, I think know, these boys are more apt to talk amongst a group of themselves than they are sitting in a room feeling like they’re being examined by someone that they don’t know.”
In a statement to CBS2, Sachem Central School District Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Graham said:
The health, safety, and mental well-being of all our students and staff continues to be our top priority. In the aftermath of the horrific events that took place during the August 10, 2017 tragedy, the district enacted steps to provide in-district and out-of-district support services to our student body and staff. Counseling services are available on an on-going basis for anyone in need.
The district has not yet been served with the complaint and, following with consistent protocol, the district will refrain from commenting on pending litigation.
A notice of claim normally needs to be filed within 90 days after an accident, but in this case, families are asking a court to allow them to file a delayed notice of claim because they said they were expecting help that never came.