Judge will not dismiss case of football player who died of heatstroke in 2017

Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Zach Polsenberg. Credit: via WINK News.

The family of 16-year-old Zachary Polsenberg, a former Riverdale High School student, filed a wrongful death lawsuit back in June after their son died following a heatstroke he suffered during football practice in 2017.

The lawsuit is being filed against the School Board of Lee County, head coach James Delgado and Lee County EMS, claiming all parties were at fault in the cause of death of Polsenberg.

All parties being sued filed a collective motion to dismiss the families lawsuit, but it was denied by a judge of the United States District Court Middle District of Florida Fort Myers Division Tuesday.

The school board was required to adopt programs, polices and rules to ensure the safety and well-being of Polsenberg and all athletes in the District.

FHSAA policy requires preseason acclimatization for students, allowing them to adjust to their environment. Rest time should involve unlimited hydration intake for every 30 minutes of practice. An area of rest should be considered a cooling zone and out of direct sunlight.

The lawsuit claims Polsenberg was forced to do never-ending sprints during practice in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit for a duration of four hours. After 3.5 hours of practice, Polsenberg collapsed.

The suit claims, Delgado didn’t properly hydrate Polsenberg and other players, and that Delgado threatened to kick Polsenberg and other players off the team if they stopped drills to get water.

The suit claims Delgado downplayed the severity of the situation and failed to inform the 911 operator Polsenberg’s condition was urgent.

The suit also claims fire and rescue was on scene for 21 minutes and did not perform any lifesaving measures such as “cool first, transport second” methods.

Polsenberg’s body temperature rose to 107 degrees. The suit claims EMS bypassed the closest hospital and transported him to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, which was 24.7 miles from the high school field.


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