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Coroner: Boy Who Died At Football Practice Had Abnormal Artery

wyatt_barber.jpg
Barber family
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A coach found Barber unconscious on the ground and not breathing Monday after players took a break from running sprints during a practice at a high school football field in southeastern Ohio, Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood said in a statement Tuesday.

A 9-year-old Ohio boy who collapsed at a youth football practice died of a rare heart problem, the Montgomery County Coroner said.

The coroner indicated that Wyatt Barber’s death had resulted from an abnormal left main coronary artery in the heart.

A coach found Barber unconscious on the ground and not breathing Monday after players took a break from running sprints during a practice at a high school football field in southeastern Ohio, Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood said in a statement Tuesday.

“Like a nightmare, you know,” said coach Jeff Steadem. “Something I never want to go through again.”

Steadem coaches with the Big Bend Youth Football League.

“I looked over and he was on the ground, face down,” he said.

Practice had just wrapped for the Eastern Eagles third and fourth-grade team. Barber wasn’t breathing.

Wood said the county EMS responded to the emergency call around 7 p.m. Monday. Coaches performed CPR on the boy until medics arrived at the school in Olive Township, a rural community about 100 miles southeast of Columbus. The boy was taken to a hospital, where he died Monday night, Wood said.

“That’s not natural for us to see a nine year old go through that,” says Wood.

Sheriff Wood has a daughter just one grade above Wyatt at Eastern Elementary School. He says the tight knit community has been devastated and right now they’re pulling together to support the family.

Coach Steadem says tests later revealed an underlying health condition.

“We get these kids to put on our team and they go through physicals and you know, you think they’re all healthy and this just proves something’s wrong,” he says.

The Meigs County Coroner wasn’t available to confirm a cause of death. But now Coach Steadem is calling for more stringent health screenings, saying you can’t be too careful.

“It was just like that. I mean it was instant, you know?” he said.

The Eastern Eagles 3rd and 4th graders have pushed back this Saturday’s Championship Game against the Meigs Marauders. A vigil is planned Wednesday night at 7 on the East Shade River Field at Eastern High School.

Wood said sheriff’s officials are conducting an investigation, as they would with any death reported to his office. The football practice at the time was a walk-through and not a contact practice, Wood said.

The boy was in the third grade in Eastern Local School District, where Superintendent Scott Gheen said grief counseling was being offered to classmates and staff.

Wyatt was participating in the Big Bend Youth Football League, which school officials said is not affiliated with the district.

The league serves about 300 children from third through sixth grades, and participants come from Meigs and Gallia counties in Ohio and Mason County in West Virginia, league president Sara Pullins said Wednesday.

“We are all absolutely devastated at the loss of this beautiful little boy and praying for the family,” Pullins said.

Maj. Scott Trussell of the sheriff’s office said Wednesday no additional information was available.