Family files lawsuit against Lee school board, EMS, coach, after son dies

The family of a high school football player who died after collapsing on the field during on-campus practice, said the coach told him he would be off the team if he stopped his drills to get water, the day he went into a coma.

It is a tragic lesson from Zachary Polsenberg’s death. Zachary, 16 years old, died after a heat stroke at football practice in 2017.

The family is now suing the Lee County School Board; his coach, James Delgado; and Lee County Emergency Medical Services.

The lawsuit claims the team was in the middle of never-ending sprints while the temperature was above 90 degrees. Anyone who took a water break was threatened with being kicked off the team.

Ty Roland, who is representing Zachary’s mother, said over the phone they intend to ask the jury what is acceptable and not acceptable in their community.

“Clearly what happened to Zach,” Ty said, “is completely unacceptable.”

The family claims that James downplayed the severity of the situation when Zachary collapsed. They add, EMS bypassed the closest hospitals and went to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, which was over 20 miles away.

Lee County Attorney Richard Wesch said in a statement: “The incident was a tragedy. We understand the pain the family is going through. However, our staff acted in strict accordance with all acceptable medical protocol, therefore we do not anticipate any liability accruing to Lee County.”

WINK News went to James’ home Tuesday evening, but he was not home. When we went to Riverdale High School to ask for the coach’s comment, we were kicked off the property.

The School District of Lee County denied to comment citing pending litigation.

On behalf of their family, Ty wants to make sure Zachary’s death brings changes.

“His legacy will be to protect other children,” Ty said. “To protect student-athletes.”

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Michael Mora
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