CHAPEL HILL — Four years ago, David and Malinda Fraley came home from work to find their 17-year-old son, Atlas, dead on the floor.
Now the couple is suing the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education and head football coach Issac Marsh in connection with their son’s death.
On Aug. 13, 2007, a year before his death, Atlas had collapsed at home soon after football practice, the lawsuit states. His condition required medical treatment.
David Fraley told Marsh after the incident to watch Atlas for future cramping and other signs of heat-related illnesses, the lawsuit states. Marsh agreed to contact the Fraleys if Atlas had cramping during practice, the lawsuit states.
David Fraley also offered to provide water and Gatorade at future practices. But Marsh said it was not necessary “because Chapel Hill High School provided these fluids at all times and Atlas would have access to water and Gatorade any time he wanted at future practices,” the lawsuit claims.
Trey Allen, an attorney for the school system, said he could not comment on the lawsuit.
“The school system and Marsh are profoundly sorry about the loss of Atlas,” Allen said.
The day Fraley died, Marsh held an unscheduled practice at Middle Creek High School. The team met at Chapel Hill High at 6:30 a.m. to take a bus to Apex.
According to the lawsuit, the team was not given water or other fluids at Chapel Hill High, on the bus, during the team warm-up drill at Apex, or during the scrimmage.
A public statement the school board released last year said the Aug. 12 “scrimmage format contained a number of water breaks, and players had access to water from several sources.”
Allen said school officials believe ample water was provided at the practice that day.
Fraley played offensive guard and defensive tackle in 80-degree weather wearing full football gear and protective equipment without access to water or sports drinks, the lawsuit claims.
He had cramping on the field, on the bus ride back, and at Chapel Hill High before he drove himself home, but Marsh did not contact the Fraleys or seek medical care, the lawsuit claims.
At home alone, Atlas called 911. But a paramedic only told him to continue drinking fluids.
After 20 minutes, the paramedic left the Fraleys’ house, without calling the boy’s parents.
By the time the Fraleys returned from work at 6:30 p.m., Atlas was dead on the floor.
The Fraleys filed a wrongful death action against Orange County and its emergency medical services department in 2010, but have voluntarily dismissed the suits. The couple also sued the paramedic, but efforts to determine the status of that suit were unsuccessful Tuesday.
The new lawsuit against the school board and coach says Marsh broke his promise to the Fraleys by not telling them Atlas had cramping at practice the day he died.
It also states that Marsh did not ensure Atlas and the other players had reasonable access to water and other drinks at practice the day he died.
An autopsy report suggested Atlas’ dehydration and cramping may have led to a fatal heart attack. But it could not provide a definitive explanation for his death.
“We certainly don’t believe any negligence on behalf of school staff is to blame for the tragic outcome,” Allen said.
A lawsuit represents one version of events in a legal dispute. The Fraleys’ suit, filed Thursday, demands the Board of Education and Marsh compensate them for damages in excess of $10,000 and pay reasonable attorney fees.
Board of Education Chairwoman Mia Day Burroughs said she could not comment on the lawsuit.
Efforts to reach the Fraleys and their attorney, Donald Strickland, for comment were unsuccessful.