Further testimony was offered in the wrongful death lawsuit levied against the University of Central Florida by the family of Ereck Plancher. Testimony included comments from players, coaches and the head trainer.
The background of the case states that Plancher and other UCF football players were practicing when, toward the end of the practice, Plancher collapsed and could not make verbal responses. His teammates carried him to a bench and gave him water, but he ultimately died. The autopsy showed that he died of heart complications due to sickle-cell trait, which can be dangerous when aggravated by intensive exercise.
The UFC football coach who was overseeing the training on the day of Plancher’s collapse was Coach George O’leary. O’leary testified that he did not see any undue stress placed upon Plancher prior to his collapse. Further, he insisted that no one had ordered water carriers or trainers out of the team fieldhouse.
This last point was contradicted by players of the team who took the stand. During testimony, a player explicitly said, “Well, on that particular day, ‘waters and trainers out’ meant players and coaches only in the fieldhouse.” This testimony was backed up earlier in the week by two other players for the team.
O’leary went on to describe the workout as a whole as “non taxing.”
This point is contested by Plancher’s family, given the nature of the autopsy results. Further, Plancher family lawyers cited evidence that the head coaches and training staff knew for a fact that Plancher had sickle-cell trait. Interestingly, head trainer Mary Vander Heiden said that she knew about the trait, and yet could not recall for sure if she had told Plancher. Given that the trait can be aggravated by the kinds of workouts a football team is expected to perform, this would seem to be an extraordinarily bad judgment call for a head trainer.