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Mother sues Kansas community college where her son died after football practice

Photo Illustration-Carlos Moreno
Facebook/Jayhawk Network

Tirrell Williams died after collapsing during a preseason workout. The federal lawsuit alleges former Fort Scott Community College head coach Carson Hunter and the school’s Board of Trustees violated Williams’ civil rights.

The mother of a 19-year-old football lineman from Louisiana alleges in a federal lawsuit that her son’s civil rights were violated when he died following a grueling summer preseason workout at Fort Scott Community College.

Tirrell Williams died in August 2021 after the team was made to run sprints as punishment when former head coach Carson Hunter found trash on the practice field.

“Plaintiff’s injuries were caused when Carson Hunter negligently, recklessly, and improperly forced Tirrell Williams to undergo an unreasonable, abusive, and dangerous training regimen in unsafe conditions, which lead to his injuries and ultimately resulted in his death,” the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, alleges.

The lawsuit was filed by Williams’ mother, Natasha Washington, against Hunter and the FSCC Board of Trustees. It seeks unspecified damages for negligence, wrongful death and civil rights violations.

“Carson Hunter refused to provide Tirrell Williams with proper care, hydration, or coverage despite forcing him to go through a reckless training regimen in unsuitable conditions,” the suit alleges.

Hunter did not immediately responded to a request for comment. An attorney for Fort Scott Community College told KCUR they do not comment on ongoing litigation.

An attorney for Williams' family provided this statement to KCUR: "The family of Tirrell Williams continues to suffer as a result of this devastating and completely avoidable loss. We will work to illuminate the actions and inactions of the responsible parties in hopes of preventing similar tragedies in the future."

On Aug. 4, 2021, Williams collapsed on the field and lapsed into a coma. He died two weeks later at the University of Kansas Hospital.

Four players and the trainer at the time told KCUR earlier this year that Williams collapsed in the middle of what coaches called "gassers" — sprints back and forth across the practice field.

“We were on gasser No. 8 or 9 when Tirrell collapsed,” former FSCC player Donald Harper said.

Former trainer Tanner Forrest said he was called to the field after Williams collapsed.

“He was on the ground when I got there, and he seemed to be having a seizure,” Forrest said.

Everyone who spoke to KCUR said Hunter refused to provide water during the workouts. One player said that Hunter would often say, “Water is for the weak.”

Fort Scott abolished its 93-year-old football program in the middle of the 2021 season. The school called it a financial decision and denied it was related to Williams' death.

Hunter is now a part-time coach at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. He is making $10.25 an hour, according to the university.

The circumstances of Williams' death were similar to those of Braeden Bradforth, who died of exertional heat stroke at Garden City Community College in 2018. Both players were 19, Black and 6-foot-3-inch-tall linemen weighing more than 300 pounds.

Garden City Community College agreed to pay Bradforth's family $500,000. The family recently settled a lawsuit against St. Catherine Hospital in Garden City, Kansas, one of its emergency department doctors and Emergency Medical Services of Finney County for an undisclosed amount.

Copyright 2022 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

Sam grew up in Overland Park and was educated at the University of Kansas. After working in Philadelphia where he covered organized crime, politics and political corruption he moved on to TV news management jobs in Minneapolis and St. Louis. Sam came home in 2013 and covered health care and education at KCPT. He came to work at KCUR in 2014. Sam has a national news and documentary Emmy for an investigation into the federal Bureau of Prisons and how it puts unescorted inmates on Grayhound and Trailways buses to move them to different prisons. Sam has one son and is pretty good in the kitchen.