Cause of death determined in recess accident

Cause of death determined in recess accident

Credit: Courtesy photo

Parents tell KGW the boy was Austin Sergeev, 11.


by Associated Press and


Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:33 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 14 at 12:18 PM

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. - A medical examiner says a Lake Oswego boy who died this week after a football hit him during recess died from blunt force trauma that stopped his heart.

Christopher Young, the deputy state medical examiner who performed the autopsy, said Wednesday that a football hit 11-year-old Austin Sergeev in the chest, not in the nexk as previously reported.

"It's an extremely unusual injury," he said.

Dr. Seshadri Balaji, a pediatric cardiac specialist at OHSU Hospital, agreed that's it's "very, very, very rare."

Balaji told The Oregonian newspaper that as the heart relaxes in its regular beat, "it is electrically very vulnerable," Balaji said. "If an object hits (over the heart) at that very time, it causes the heart to go into electrical chaos. It essentially stops," Balaji said.

The doctor said the injury occurs more frequently in children than adults and is more common in baseball than football.

"Defibrillation is the key to this," Balaji said.

All 13 Lake Oswego schools have portable defibrillators, which use an electric shock to restart the heart. The school staff did not use it, said Lake Oswego Superintendent Bill Korach.

Firefighters, who arrived in three minutes, used a defibrillator without success, said Gert Zoutendijk, Lake Oswego deputy fire marshal.

The Lake Oswego School District suspended recess football games at Palisades until officials further examine the incident.

"We want to make sure at Palisades that we are not doing something that is causing more psychological harm," Korach said.

A community mourns

On Wednesday, friends and supporters brought flowers to a memorial at Palisades Elementary School in Lake Oswego Tuesday after a tragic accident took the life of a fifth-grader.

Austin Sergeev was playing flag football during recess when he was hit with the ball while trying to block a punt. He collapsed and died at the hospital soon after.

"It was clear that the impact of the football had impacted his airway," Duin said.

Sergeev lay gasping for air in front of his friends and classmates.

School staff radioed the office for help and paramedics were on the scene in three minutes to begin CPR, Duin said.

"I saw them working on the boy, pumping on his chest for 25 minutes," said Benjamin Crofut, the parent of a Lake Oswego Elementary student, who watched as the child was rushed away in an ambulance.

Police and the Lake Oswego Fire Department responded.

"It was just a really horrible, sudden, tragic event," Duin said. "I'm still in shock. I'm in complete shock right now."

Counselors have been at the Lake Oswego school all day Wednesday to help with grieving parents, kids and teachers.

Additionally, several parents met with school administrators, trying to how best to help their kids cope.

The flag is flying half-mast at Palisades today, while a make-shift memorial to young Sergeev has tripled in size.

"What a tragedy; I mean, imagine all the families involved," said Steven Sill, a Palisades Elementary parent. "We know this was an only child and it's just amazing -- I'm, I'm almost speechless."< /p>

Students, parents and school staff have been lingering near the memorial, wiping tears away.

"You feel for the parents, you know? Your heart just breaks for them," said Cherie Hurdstrom, the parent of two Palisades children.

Hurdstrom says she sat down her kindergartener and first grader Tuesday night and explained what happened.

"The biggest question that stuck out with her was, 'Am I going to die?" Hurdstrom said. "It's somebody at her school; it's a different case when, say, a grandmother dies When a child dies that is really difficult for them to understand."

The random accident has left parents here grasping.

Sill's daughter is in second grade. He spoke of trying to explain to her what happened to Sergeev.

"She got very sad and she told us several times throughout the night, 'I'm really, really, really, really sad," he said.

Hurdstrom said she could not imagine how desperate Sergeev's parents must feel.

"That's the worst thing for a parent -- just to think that maybe you could lose a child," she said.

Duin said teachers will inform students in classrooms, in "an age-appropriate way," and that she expected it to impact the fifth and sixth graders hardest.


The school sent a letter out to all Palisades parents immediately after the accident.

KGW Reporter Erica Heartquist contributed to this report.