Jersey Shore Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), appeared in Avon-by-the-Sea on Friday saying that he intends to fight for full transparency and accountability for Braeden’s family after Garden City Community College, the Kansas college where Bradforth died last year on his second day on campus, "stonewalled the family’s request for an independent investigation into his death."

Smith was joined at a press conference by Bradforth’s mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram.

“From day one, I’ve just been trying to find out what happened to my son, and I have not been able to get those answers,” Atkins-Ingram said. “We need to prevent this from happening to anyone else, because the way my son died was totally preventable.”

“It should have been a given that the college would have been absolutely transparent, because they bragged about that in the beginning; and that they would provide information, that any question she might have should be answered, and then some—a full explanation, and that has not happened.” Smith said. “There are all kinds of questions swirling around, and no answers. Instead, lawyering up and deferring questions to the attorney at the college—I think that’s, frankly, outrageous. And if you’re going to have transparency, open up and let them know what happened. If mistakes were made, bear responsibility for that and ensure it never happens again.”

Bradforth, a 19 year-old from Neptune who played in the Shore Sports Network All-Shore Gridiron Classic last summer received a scholarship in July of 2018 to play football at GCCC.

On August 1, 2018, his second day on campus, he collapsed after evening football practice and was found unresponsive.

After being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, he passed away just hours later due to “exertional heat stroke,” his autopsy later revealed.

GCCC Head coach Jeff Sims told the Garden City Telegram that the defensive linesman was found "medically distressed" in his dorm room after a team meeting.

After calling for a team trainer to help Bradforth, an ambulance took him to a hospital where he died about 11:30 p.m.

Coach Sims told the Witchita Eagle that an emergency room physician told him that Bradforth was probably unaware of an existing medical condition that had caused a blood clot that reached his heart.

The college later conducted an internal review of Braeden’s death, but the family never received the results of the review and to date, there has been no independent investigation into Bradforth’s death.

Congressman Smith recently met with Braeden’s mother and promised to do everything he could to assist her in her efforts to find out more about her son’s death, and what actions could be taken to prevent such tragedies in the future.

On Friday, March 22, Smith sent a letter to Ryan Ruda, President of Garden City Community College, requesting an independent investigation into Bradforth’s death.

President Ruda responded to Rep. Smith’s request for an independent investigation in a five-sentence email, saying that “Due to the KSA 12-105B Notice of Claim, the college is not at liberty to speak further on the matter. Recent correspondence has gone through the college attorney, Mr. Randy Grisell. At this time, Mr. Grisell is limited in the additional comments he can make, as the claim has been turned over to the college’s liability insurance carrier to handle."

The response hasn't sat well with Congressman Smith.

“That is such a legalistic and, I think, both rude and condescending response,” Smith said. “A mom wants to know what happened to her son. She asked and asked persistently right from the get-go, as she is entitled.”

After the University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair died in 2018 of heat stroke after football practice, the university commissioned an independent investigation that reviewed the college’s protocols for maintaining student-athlete health and safety in light of best practices, and whether they were appropriately implemented.

The report assessed the college’s Emergency Action Plan and examined documents relevant to McNair’s death, including his workout notes and medical records.

“At a minimum, there needs to be a comprehensive GAO report on policies and norms to ensure the safety of athletes,” Smith said, “to see if there is any uniformity in ensuring the best practices are utilized across the country. Where are the gaps?"

“There just needs to be a mandate that safety comes first,” Atkins-Ingram said. “My goal now is to enact change so there’s no other kid that has to suffer like this.”

Previous reporting by Dan Alexander was used in this report.

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