COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Missouri football player who died after
collapsing at the end of a preseason workout wasn't immediately
taken to the hospital across the street but instead driven to the
team offices, a university police report shows.
Aaron O'Neal, 19, was "in full cardiac arrest" by the time
campus police officer Clayton Henke and University Hospital
paramedics arrived at the Tom Taylor Building on July 12, Henke
wrote in a police report obtained by The Associated Press under
Missouri's public records law.
"He was brought to our door in the back of a pickup from
afternoon workouts," athletic trainer Greg Nagel told emergency
dispatchers in a 911 call from the Taylor building, according to a
copy of the call obtained by the AP. "We need someone here in a
Both University Hospital and the Taylor building are across the
street from Faurot Field, but on opposite sides.
Fifteen minutes after Nagel's call to 911, Henke was sent to the
scene at 3:24 p.m., nearly one hour after the conclusion of the
hourlong voluntary workout.
O'Neal, 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, started to struggle during
conditioning drills about 45 minutes into the session, during which
players wore shorts, T-shirts and football cleats but no helmets or
The backup middle linebacker slumped to the ground after the
final drill and was helped off the field by a teammate.
O'Neal was unconscious when he arrived at the Taylor building,
assistant athletic trainer Alfred Castillo told university police.
O'Neal was taken there rather than the nearby hospital "so that
O'Neal could be seen by staff members," Henke wrote.
It was not clear exactly when O'Neal fell unconscious.
O'Neal was pronounced dead at the hospital at 4:05 p.m., or just
over 90 minutes after the workout ended.
The Boone County medical examiner completed an autopsy the day
after O'Neal's death and ruled out infection, trauma and foul play
as causes of death. Complete results won't be available for several
weeks, pending toxicology tests and other laboratory analysis.
But while the final report remains incomplete, the county's
deputy medical examiner said the circumstances surrounding O'Neal's
death require systematic changes to the way such workouts are
conducted and monitored.
"Clearly, everybody felt that this was just athletic fatigue
and he felt fine," said Eddie Adelstein, who is also an associate
professor of pathology at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to say that anyone who
shows fatigue at the level he did, the rational thing would have
been to stop and examine him."
University officials said Tuesday that they won't discuss the
events leading up to O'Neal's death until after an internal review
The line between heat stroke and heat exhaustion can be
difficult to define, said Douglas Kleiner, a University of Florida
professor of medicine and former team trainer for Auburn University
and the Miami Dolphins.
"There's a problem in sports medicine," he said. "There's not
a clear-cut way of distinguishing when you get in that danger zone
when it comes to heat stroke."
NCAA rules require summer workouts to be supervised by strength
and conditioning directors and athletic trainers. The organization
adopted a series of stringent regulations governing summer workouts
after the deaths of three Division I football players in the summer
of 2001, including a requirement that those supervising the
workouts be trained and certified in CPR and first aid techniques.
That official has the "unchallengeable authority to cancel or
modify the workout for health and safety reasons," the rules
Three of Missouri's five athletics trainers were at the July 12
workout, according to a football team press release issued the next
day. University officials declined to say whether any trainers left
the workout early or accompanied O'Neal in the pickup that took him
to the Taylor building.
O'Neal had a pulse inside the car, Castillo told police. Once
inside the athletics building, O'Neal's pulse further weakened.
When Castillo couldn't identify an auditory heart beat, he attached
an automatic defibrillator to O'Neal in an attempt to shock him
back to life, according to the report.
Paramedics arrived before Castillo could do so. They performed
chest compressions in the ambulance and administered CPR en route
to the hospital.
Coach Gary Pinkel has said he doesn't plan to change the way
summer workouts are conducted.