The family of a Riverhead football player who spent five weeks in a hospital after collapsing from heatstroke is seeking legal action against the school district for “acting in a careless, reckless and negligent manner,” according to a notice of claim filed Wednesday.
Bay Shore attorney Andrew Siben said the school district should have done more to protect 16-year-old Nikolas Visco.
“We believe that the school was negligent in their failure to adhere to the guidelines for playing sports in light of the high temperature that occurred on that day,” Mr. Siben said.
Nikolas collapsed at the end of the team’s first practice around 10 a.m. on Aug. 17. The school’s athletic trainer, Chris Hildebrand, quickly came to his aid and Nikolas was transported by Riverhead Ambulance volunteers to Peconic Bay Medical Center where he lost consciousness and was found to have a 108-degree fever. He was later transferred to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital where he remained for more than a month.
“This kid had very significant injuries: pancreas, liver and kidneys,” Mr. Siben said. “His body basically shut down.”
Yvette Tirado, Nikolas’ mother, filed the notice of claim against the school district. Ms. Tirado said she was advised by her lawyer not to comment on the legal action at this time.
“I have to do what is best for my son,” she wrote in a Facebook message.
Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney did not respond to a request for comment.
Nikolas was released from the hospital Saturday and will continue to undergo extensive rehabilitation. Doctors were keeping a close eye on Nikolas’ calcium levels before releasing him. The levels could have affected his heart and sent him into cardiac arrest, his mother said on Friday.
The notice of claim mentions varsity head coach Leif Shay and the rest of the coaching staff for failing to comply with rules and guidelines issued by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association related to practicing in excessive heat.
The claim notes the staff did not “allow for appropriate breaks so as to allow its student athletes to ingest water and other fluids.”
Ms. Carney said in August shortly after the incident that the team had been practicing “as if it was a modified heat alert,” and that players were given water breaks and practicing in T-shirts and shorts. Section XI, the governing body for Suffolk County sports, had not issued a heat alert that morning, Ms. Carney previously said.
The notice of claim said athletes were subjected to “punishment drills” of an “excessive and unwarranted nature under the subject times and weather conditions.” The claim says the district failed to adequately supervise and monitor the football practice and hired “incompetent personnel.”
Mr. Shay, who is in his 17th year as a coach of the Blue Waves, said on Wednesday he couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
“We’re just happy Nikolas is home and is recuperating and hopefully he’ll make a full recovery,” he said.
Mr. Siben estimated the family’s expenses because of the injury are into the thousands, but couldn’t immediately give a more precise figure.
“The bills have got to be exorbitant,” he said.
Nikolas was hopeful he could step on the field with his teammates for the team’s homecoming game Oct. 24, his mother said last week.