HS Football Player Dies When Log Falls in Teambuilding Navy SEAL Drill

A high school football player performing a drill used by the U.S. Navy SEALs for conditioning was killed Thursday when the log he and teammates were carrying fatally struck him in the head, police said.

Joshua Mileto, 16, was taking part in a preseason exercise camp with the Sachem East High School football team when the accident occurred at the school on eastern Long Island, according to Suffolk County homicide detectives. No other injuries were reported.

The team was participating in an exercise camp before the official start of team training on Monday. The football season begins in September.

Carlin Schledorn, a Sachem East graduate who played football as a junior, said carrying the log, which is about 12 feet (3.7 meters) long and the diameter of a utility pole, was an exercise used for "team building."

"It's very big. It's like a tree, and it's a challenge for people who weightlift," he said outside his home, which is near the high school. "Five or six people do it at once. I feel horrific for the team and coaches because I know them and they are all great men."

School officials, including the head coach, did not comment on the exercise.

Douglas Casa, executive director of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut, which works to improve safety for athletes, questioned the wisdom of teenagers performing an exercise that involves carrying a heavy object and that was developed for Navy SEALs, "potentially a very different clientele."

He said, "There's so much potential for things to go wrong that I would really want people to think twice before doing something like that."

Tom Combs, executive director of the athletic organization that oversees high school sports in the county, said offseason practices are permitted as long as they are not mandated and are open to everyone.

"What exercises that are conducted are the privy of the school district and individuals running the workouts," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and the Sachem school district."

Mileto was an 11th grader at the school. A person at his home declined to speak with reporters.

Police said he was in the middle of a group of about five players carrying the log over their heads when the accident happened shortly before 9 a.m. About a half-dozen coaches were on the field at the time, said Suffolk County Assistant Police Commissioner Justin Meyers. In an unrelated incident, another player fell and hit his head Wednesday at the school during training, police said. His injuries were not life-threatening.

Teammates gathered outside Stony Brook University Hospital, where Mileto was pronounced dead. They didn't comment.

Sachem Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Graham extended condolences to Mileto's family and friends and said support services will be offered "for as long as needed." The statement on the district website did not describe how the accident occurred.

"He was my best friend. We grew up together. We knew each other since we were 2," said classmate Olivia Cassereli. "He cared about everyone else. He put others before himself and everyone loved him and was friends with him."

Sachem East was 3-5 in the 2016 season.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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