Bigfork Football Player Who Collapsed at Practice Dies

By Beacon Staff

KALISPELL (AP) – A Bigfork High School football player who collapsed during practice last week died Monday morning at a hospital here.

Jeffrey R. Bowman, 17, died at 11 a.m., according to officials at the Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where Bowman had been since collapsing last Monday.

Bowman fell while running laps with the team, said Bigfork Superintendent Russ Kinzer, adding there was smoke in the air from area wildfires at the time. Kinzer said it was his understanding that a “heart situation” contributed to the boy’s collapse.

Bowman, who enrolled at Bigfork High School in November 2006, would have been a senior this year. He was initially believed to have been a junior.

“We are all stunned,” Kinzer told The Daily Inter Lake newspaper late Monday afternoon. “We’re hurting.”

Kinzer said Bowman’s father had called him with updates on the boy’s condition a couple of times over the past week, but Bigfork Athletic Director Shannon Smith has been the primary point of contact between the school and the family to limit disruptions as they watched his progress.

“I had information this morning that he (Bowman) had responded some,” Kinzer said. “He took a reversal after we were hoping a miracle would happen.”

It was not yet known yet whether an autopsy was planned.

Kinzer said earlier that Bowman was practicing last Monday even though he had not had a physical examination. State high school guidelines require all student athletes to have a physical exam certified by a physician, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner prior to their first practice.

Kinzer said Bowman’s coaches thought he’d had a physical done, but had him confused with another boy with a similar last name, KCFW-TV reported.

Two other boys who didn’t have physicals were at practice last Monday but were only allowed to observe. Last Monday was Bigfork’s first day of two-a-day practices.

It was unclear whether a routine physical would have turned up indications of any existing heart problems.

After Bowman collapsed, assistant coaches immediately began cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the superintendent has said. Paramedics continued CPR and used a defibrillator to revive the boy, who was then loaded into a helicopter and taken to the Kalispell hospital.

“I thought the coaches responded well to the situation,” Kinzer said Monday. “But we’ll continue with the investigation and take statements and draw conclusions the best we can.”

The school is collecting statements from football players, coaches, Smith and others who were present at the time, he said.

The family asked one of Bowman’s teammates to notify the other players of his death Monday afternoon, Kinzer said. The team then met but didn’t hold practice.

Members of other fall sports teams also were notified personally.

“We’re all sad about it. It’s a depressing way to start a season,” Kinzer said. “But we’ve got a strong community, strong parents,” and devoted athletes.

“They’re going to (focus on) their goals and keep going, keep moving, remember why they’re playing,” he said. “They’re going to remember their teammate and get through this.”

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