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Irvine school grieves for student, 15

Assembly, counselors help Northwood High students work through feelings after the death of a football player.

May 30, 2008|Nardine Saad and Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writers

The death of a 15-year-old football player Wednesday after practice has left Northwood High School in Irvine shaken and grieving.

The young athlete, identified by Orange County coroner's officials as Dylan Bradshaw, collapsed just after 5 p.m. at the school on Portola Parkway, police said.

A trainer tried to revive Dylan, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation; the sophomore died at a hospital about an hour later.

Dylan, an offensive and defensive lineman, was practicing with the Timberwolves junior varsity squad in a spring practice in which players -- as stipulated by state regulations -- do not wear padding, a district official said.

After a coach had finished talking to the team, Dylan told coaches he didn't feel well and was escorted to the side of the practice field, said Irvine Police Lt. Rick Handfield. The student sat down on an electric cart and collapsed, he said.

"It's obviously a really, really sad day for Northwood," Handfield said. "They're working through it, as you might expect, almost minute by minute."

"They're really just kind of starting to process what has happened."

Students and teachers struggled to get through the school day after a morning announcement was made about Dylan's death. Counselors were on campus to talk with grieving students, Irvine Unified School District spokesman Ian Hanigan said.

Hanigan described the atmosphere at the 2,200-student school as "heartbreaking."

"This is going to be a real rough couple of weeks," he said.

Counselors and teachers held an after-school meeting in the campus theater where more than 100 football players, other students and parents discussed Dylan's death.

"We're all really sad right now," said Andrew Smidt, 17, a varsity running back, as he left the meeting.

Dylan's cousin went to the meeting, Andrew said, and thanked the team for the experiences Dylan had shared with them.

A school counselor read a condolence letter from administrators at crosstown rival Beckman High School, where football lineman Kenny Wilson, 16, died of heatstroke after collapsing during practice last August.

Those gathered at the meeting said a prayer and broke into small groups to "help each other out," said Andrew, a Northwood junior.

Andrew recalled Dylan's strong work ethic: "He never argued, never complained. If we all played like him, our season would be amazing."

Although Dylan was shy, "he always had a smile on," Andrew said.

Preliminary findings were inconclusive, said Larry Esslinger, supervising deputy coroner. Results of further testing could take three to six weeks, Handfield said.

In the last 15 months, a Northwood student died in a car accident and another died from an asthma-induced collapse, Hanigan said.

"It's the worst thing that a school community can go through."

In Orange County, two other student athletes died while participating in their sport this school year. In addition to Kenny Wilson, Megan Myers, a 14-year-old high school freshman at Dana Hills High School, collapsed during a cross-country race; she was later found to have heart inflammation.

"We're there for each other -- we're a football family," Andrew said. "We all miss him equally."

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nardine.saad@latimes.com

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susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

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