School Brings in Outside Investigator in Bigfork Football Player Death

By Beacon Staff

BIGFORK (AP) – The school district here is bringing in an outside investigator to look into the death of an incoming senior who collapsed while running laps during football tryouts.

“Because of differences in perception relative to the incident, we’ve hired an independent investigator,” said Superintendent Russell Kinzer. “The stories we’ve heard are very consistent on some points, and not consistent on others. We need to find out exactly what happened.”

Kinzer said there were varying accounts as to how quickly the coaching staff got to Jeffrey Bowman and began administering CPR.

Elizabeth Kaleva, a school law attorney from Missoula who has served as chief legal counsel for the Montana School Boards Association, will conduct the investigation.

Bowman, 17, apparently went into cardiac arrest and collapsed on Aug. 13, the first day of football practice. Temperatures were hot and the air was smoky from forest fires. He died Monday at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

Besides the football players and coaches, some parents were in the grandstands and another group of people were playing Frisbee nearby.

“You reach a point where it’s difficult to sort it all out,” Kinzer said. “We need someone with that sort of experience and training to proceed with a comprehensive investigation.”

Officials have said Bowman was practicing even though he had not turned in paperwork indicating he had received a physical examination by a doctor, as required by school policy.

Kinzer said players were warned not to practice if their physicals were not on file, and two sat out the first day’s practices.

Another player with a last name similar to Bowman’s who had turned in his physical wasn’t at the practice, possibly leading to confusion on the part of the coaching staff as to who had turned in the required paperwork, Kinzer said.

Bowman transferred into the district midway through the 2006-07 school year and had not played football for the Vikings before.

Kinzer said he didn’t know how long it would take Kaleva to complete her investigation, but said it could be a while, given the large number of witnesses.

“At this point,” he added, “I will not be able to respond to parents’ questions until the investigation is complete.”

The Vikings are scheduled to open their football season at home on Friday, Aug. 31, against Hamilton.