Lewis Simpkins, a 14-year old student at River Bluff High School collapsed and died after a two-hour and 15 minutes training session in 95-degree heat. This practice session was a punishment by the River Bluff High School football team for performing poorly in a match played the day before. The training session, ordered by the school’s football coaches, comprised of a series of sprints and other strenuous workouts with regular water breaks every 15-20 minutes.
The parents, Willie and Shonda Simpkins, filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages for wrongful death. According to the Simpkins family lawsuit, the 6-foot-2, 270-pound defensive tackle collapsed in the high school’s locker rooms minutes after the training sessions. According to fellow teammates, Lewis was struggling throughout the training session and often had to stop and gasp for air. Just when the players thought that the strenuous training session was over, the coaches ordered the defensive players to perform ‘up-downs.’
It’s during this drill — where players assume a push-up position on the ground and then bring themselves up to their feet repeatedly — that Lewis’s body gave in to the pressure. After several up-downs, Simpkins leaned on one knee and could not get up. The coaches kept yelling constantly for the players to get up. Simpkins performed one more up-down but couldn’t find the strength to get up. He was moved to the training room where after answering a number of questions, became unresponsive.
Pre-Existing Heart Conditions
According to Margaret Fisher, the Lexington County Coroner, Lewis Simpkins succumbed to pre-existing heart conditions which were worsened by the extreme heat and humidity during the training session. The lawsuit filed by the family says that the River Bluff High School students were pushed too far in the training sessions without the necessary equipment to protect them from the extreme summer heat. In the lawsuit, the Simpkins family accuses S.C. Board of Education, S.C. High School League, Lexington County, and the Lexington 1 School District for failing in the adoption and enforcement of policies meant to protect the players in extreme weather conditions.