By Katie Atkins
and Greg Fox
BROCTON - Almost three days after suffering a severe head injury during a Class D varsity football game, Brocton High School junior Damon W. Janes has died.
"Damon W. Janes, 16, a junior who attended Brocton Central School, lost his fight and went to be with the Lord following his injury resulting from helmet-to-helmet collision during a Westfield/Brocton varsity football game," according to an official joint statement from Women & Children's Hospital at Buffalo and the family of Janes. "His parents wish to express their gratitude to those who have supported and prayed for Damon and his family, and continue to request that their privacy be respected at this time."
The 16-year-old running back was transported to Olean General Hospital from Portville, then to Women & Children's, after taking the helmet-to-helmet hit during the third quarter of a football game Friday night between Brocton Central School and Westfield Academy and Central School (which has a combined football team) and Portville Central School. Janes reportedly lost consciousness after the hit. The game was called off after the injury.
Twitter was overflowing with statements of sadness and shock Monday evening with the hashtag #PrayForDamon.
"Rest peacefully Damon Janes you've brought this whole community closer than ever before," Monica Kahi Simmons posted using the #PrayForDamon hashtag.
A second tweet by Don Grzebielucha posted Monday night said, "No one's supposed to go play football & die, but Damon died doing something he loved, he'd want all to keep playing, caring..."
The news of Janes' death has garnered national attention, from high-ranking officials within the United States government to members of the national football community.
"Praying for Damon and the entire Brocton community from DC today," United States Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted.
"Sad news of the passing of Damon Janes, 16. We have to protect young FB players & it starts with training their necks," Kevin McCadem, assistant strength coach at West Virginia University, tweeted.
Brocton School Superintendent John Hertlein said he, as well as the entire Brocton/Westfield community, is "deeply saddened" by the loss of Janes.
"This is the community's loss, as well as the school's loss and we're deeply sorry for all of that," he said. "Our prayers are with his family, his classmates, his teammates and so on. We have no particular information on any type of arrangements and counselors will be available for students throughout this entire week."
"This is such a tragic event. One that nobody could ever believe would happen in our small community, a close community where we look after and take care of each other," Brocton School Board member and Chautauqua County legislator Thomas DeJoe said. "I would ask that everyone continues to pray for Damon's family to give them our support and strength to deal with their tragic and devastating loss; a loss that we all share with them. God bless them."
During a Westfield Village Board meeting Monday evening, Mayor Mike Vande Velde asked for a moment of silence for Janes following the Pledge of Allegiance.
"We offer our condolences to his family on behalf of the village of Westfield," he said.
A Facebook page calls for the nation to wear the color pink today in Janes' memory. Students at Brocton wore their school color, green, on Monday in Janes' honor. Students at Westfield also wore green, as well as their school color, blue, on the same day. Portville students have also committed to wearing pink today for the Brocton junior.
According to the New York State Sportswriters Association, in the past two years, other scholastic athletes from New York have died while taking part in fall sports. Sixteen-year-old Ridge Barden of Phoenix, N.Y., collapsed during a football game in 2011 due to bleeding in the brain unleashed by forceful bodily contact. Ronan Guyer, 14, of Southold, N.Y., died last November also at Women & Children's while in a medically induced coma triggered by cardiac arrest after preparing for a cross country meet in Elma.
All competitive sporting events this week in both the Brocton and Westfield school districts have been canceled in lieu of Janes' passing.
"These events are at the discretion of the coaches and we encourage that because we like to have kids be involved," Hertlein said.
Brocton has also canceled, until further notice, all Homecoming activities planned for this week and has postponed its board of education meeting that was scheduled for Wednesday to Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. in the board room.
Also, Westfield has canceled its open house that was scheduled for Thursday until further notice. This includes a visitation and tour of the Brocton Central School building for high school students. Brocton has canceled its own visitation and tour for middle school students of the Westfield Academy and Central School facility that was also scheduled for Thursday.