LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Supporters rallied around a Kentucky high school football coach ahead of his first court date on unprecedented criminal charges for the heat-related death of a player during practice.
David Jason Stinson was scheduled for arraignment in Louisville on Monday after weekend vigils by students, players, faculty and others in support of the head football coach from Pleasure Ridge Park High School. A grand jury Thursday indicted Stinson on one count of reckless homicide for the death of 15-year-old Max Gilpin.
The sophomore offensive lineman died three days after collapsing during a sweltering practice Aug. 20.
Heat exposure deaths have occurred occasionally in all levels of football and the cases have led to numerous lawsuits. However, it appears a coach has never been criminally charged in the deaths.
Stinson's attorney has said the coach is innocent. Stinson, who has been reassigned to non-teaching and non-coaching duties pending the outcome of the case, has said he is heartbroken.
Two public rallies were held over the weekend in support of Stinson, one Saturday at the coach's home and the other Sunday at the football field of the south Louisville school.
At Stinson's home, the embattled coach stepped outside and told dozens of supporters he had lost "a boy that meant the world to me" and would carry the burden for the rest of his life.
A day later, hundreds of students, coaches, players, faculty members and well-wishers huddled in shivering temperatures on the school's football field in support of Stinson.
The heavily bundled crowd spent over an hour hailing Stinson as a man of integrity. Several people brought homemade signs while two students wore sweat shirts that read "We believe in our Mr. Incredible" on the front and "Pray for Coach Stinson" on the back.
A banner near the end zone read: "The PRP family supports our coaches." Some supporters wept quietly during the 90-minute gathering.
Monica Stinson, the coach's wife, told the group she and her husband have been overwhelmed by the outpouring from the community.
"The upcoming months are going to be the hardest," Monica Stinson said while fighting back tears. She later shared an embrace with Lois Gilpin, Max's stepmother.
Jeff Gilpin and Michele Crockett, Max's divorced parents, told The Courier-Journal in a story published Sunday that they want to find out what happened during that sweltering afternoon when their son died so that future tragedies can be avoided.
The parents have jointly filed a lawsuit against the PRP coaching staff, accusing them of negligence and "reckless disregard."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.