3 high school football players hospitalized after nearly drowning: 'I genuinely thought he was dead'

High school football players were hospitalized after they almost drowned during a practice (Credit: Getty Images)

Three high school football players in Alabama were reportedly hospitalized after they almost drowned, and had to be rescued from a swimming pool. Authorities say they are investigating the incident.

The students — whose names have not been released — are football players at West Valley High School, Fairbanks, Ala. According to a spokesperson for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, they were at practice on July 26 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks pool when the accident occurred.

Marmian Grimes, a public information officer for the university tells Yahoo Lifestyle that ambulances were dispatched to the UAF Patty Center at 7:23 p.m. for a reported drowning and all three youths were unresponsive when paramedics arrived. Grimes confirmed that a lifeguard was present at the pool and helped rescue the students.

While one student was released on Saturday — the day after the incident — a statement from the school district says that the last student was hospitalized for 4 days, and only left the hospital on Tuesday, July 30. It is unclear when the second student was released.

Neither Grimes nor the school confirmed how the accident took place, but KTVF reports that the head coach, Roy Hessner, was aware that some students didn’t know how to swim and “made them get in the water anyway.”

“He already knew that kids couldn’t swim, and there were about three kids still holding onto the ledge,” a witness said.

The channel reports that eyewitnesses who were at the practice said they saw people struggling during an exercise — which involved wearing a sweater in the pool, removing it, and then putting it back on in the deep end.

“Like 15 seconds in, people were like just struggling, like struggling, struggling. There is kids screaming at the top of their lungs for help...the lifeguard that was there, she was trying to get in, but our head coach he told her, ‘It’s ok, they’ve got it on their own,” an eyewitness told KTVF.

The same person added to the station that “at least” one student sank to the bottom of the pool, and was “stiff” when the lifeguard jumped in to pull him out.

“I started crying because I just didn’t know what was going on. They pulled one kid out and his arms were just stiff. He was just stiff. He wasn’t moving. I just started bawling my eyes out because I genuinely thought he was dead,” the eyewitness said. “They pulled the last kid out, I thought he was dead because he was purple and he wasn’t moving at all. Everyone there was pretty much bawling their eyes out and either mad or just sad that this was going on.”

The school district did not clarify whether the coach was to blame for the incident. According to their press release, West Valley High School will begin their football season as regularly scheduled.

“School administration has assembled a coaching staff to get the season started,” their statement reads. “Norm Davis will serve as acting head coach. Mr. Davis is a teacher at University Park Elementary and has helped coach football and wrestling at West Valley for many years.”

According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, superintendent Karen Gaborik said the school district is conducting an investigation and interviewing those involved in an email to school parents and staff. Grimes confirms that the University of Alaska Fairbanks Police Department is also still investigating the incident.

“The school district is committed to the physical and emotional well-being of our students,” a spokesperson for the district says. “West Valley administration responded to the hospital and have been in contact with parents of the students involved.”

Alaska State Troopers did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

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