Saturday, May 12, 2007

Update: Toronto rugby teen dies

(More updates below):

Update 1: It's confirmed, Toronto high school rugby player Manny Castillo is dead.

(See earlier post.)

Update 2: The Toronto Star reveals more about the altercation in this mornings' edition:

The 16-year-old boy charged in connection with the death of Manny Castillo during a high school rugby match was thrown out of the game for his actions after the whistle was blown, according to one spectator.

The mother of one of Castillo's teammates said she saw the Erindale Secondary School student being issued a red card by a referee immediately after the 15-year-old, who played for Lorne Park Secondary School, had been thrown to the ground.

Joining a chorus of conflicting reports, the woman said she was horrified to see Castillo sprawled on the field while the opposing player angrily protested the call.

"As Manny was laying on the ground, this boy was swearing at the referee," said the woman, who did not want to be identified because the teammates have kept a code of silence throughout much of the ordeal. "It was definitely not part of the game."

Other parents who attended the game could not be reached for comment. [...]

Police initially charged him with aggravated assault but that could be upgraded to manslaughter, now that Castillo has died. [...]

Even while Castillo was clinging to life at the Hospital for Sick Children on Thursday night, his father, Manuel, was adamant that the 16-year-old should not be charged, calling it a rugby-related injury.

Not everyone, including the mother who watched from the stands, shared that perspective.

"Once the whistle went, this kid grabbed him and threw him on the ground," she said.

While Manny's uncle and father characterized the incident as a "freak accident," police seemed to side with the witness.

"I don't know if the parents know all of the facts of the case," said Peel Regional police Insp. Norm English of the homicide squad. "This is a very, very sad and difficult situation for everybody including the accused youth and his family."

Police are continuing to investigate the case, the officer said, and charged the teen after interviews with coaches, the referee, players and other witnesses to the altercation, English explained.

But police will consult further with the family, he said.

"Their input is important," English said. Police have confirmed the altercation was separate from "regular game play" and happened in the final seconds of the match.

Some students told the Star the incident happened immediately following a scrum, where players are huddled together with their arms locked. When the players broke up, Manny and another player continued to grapple with Manny landing on the ground, suffering a severe head injury.

[...] News of Manny's death rattled players at Pine Ridge Secondary School in Pickering, which was hosting a junior boys rugby tournament for 24 teams from across the province. Players and coaches were saddened by the news and emphasized the importance of playing the game cleanly.

"Like all contact sports, there's an element of aggression," said Bruce Elliott, a Pine Ridge teacher and rugby coach.

"However, there's no question that intending to cause injury is something that is absolutely forbidden, the rules are outlined that way. [...]

Dave Whitney, who coaches the rugby team at Bayside Secondary School in Belleville, said the sad news made him a little nervous about taking his students to a large tournament.

"You can't dwell on it, but it is still in the back of your mind. We're trying to focus on the positives of the game," he said.

[...]Karl Yap-Sam, a chiropractor and former high school teacher and rugby coach, who was at the game yesterday to provide medical assistance, said every contact sport has its risks.

"In rugby there is risk for spinal injuries. ... It is not common but it is not unusual to have neck or spinal injuries, but it is not a lot different than other contact sports," he said. Teaching appropriate ways of tackling, how to fall properly in a scrum, and good body position, is key to minimizing injuries, Yap-Sam said.

Read the whole Star article here.

Again ~ I can't make comment until I hear the referee and match official reports...

Update 3: Sunday morning update:

Further tests are needed to determine the cause of a Mississauga teen's death during a high school rugby match.

Manny Castillo, 15, was pronounced dead in a Toronto hospital on Friday after being on life support since the incident at Lorne Park Secondary School on Wednesday. [...]

"The exact cause of death is pending further tests and further analysis," Ontario deputy coroner Jim Cairns said yesterday. "This will probably take another two to three weeks."

Cairns confirmed the tests aren't toxicological in nature but involve further examination of body tissues.

"The autopsy has been done but we aren't able to provide police with a definitive cause of death and it won't be established until these further tests are completed," Cairns said.

Because charges could be upgraded, Cairns said it's important that police get as much information about what happened and why the teen died.

"It's not possible at this time," Cairns said. [...]

Police have released few details about the circumstances leading up to the tragedy although one spectator told the Star the accused teen was given a red card by a referee and thrown out of the game immediately after throwing the Grade 10 student to the ground. [...]

Manny's parents have donated their eldest son's organs.

Source: Toronto Star.

See original posting below.


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