A former UCF football player stated in a sworn deposition there were no athletic trainers or water present during the final phase of Ereck Plancher's last workout.
Former UCF wide receiver Anthony Davis stated in the deposition no athletic trainers assisted Plancher as he showed signs of distress during a challenging obstacle course. Davis also stated UCF coach George O'Leary repeatedly cursed at Plancher when he failed to keep up with his teammates late in the workout.
Attorneys representing UCF questioned the accuracy of Davis' statements, arguing it was inconsistent with statements made by other players present during the workout.
Plancher, a 19-year-old freshman wide receiver from Naples, died March 18, 2008, after an offseason conditioning workout on the UCF campus supervised by coach George O'Leary and his staff. An autopsy found that the stress of the workout triggered Plancher's sickle cell trait, a blood disorder that attacked his organs and caused his body to shut down.
Enock and Giselle Plancher, Ereck's parents, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the UCF Athletics Association and the UCF board of trustees on March 12, 2009.
UCF has repeatedly called Plancher's death a tragedy and contends staff members did everything possible to save his life.
The Plancher family attorneys presented Davis' deposition in an Orange County courtroom Friday as part of its motion seeking punitive damages in the case.
Davis was asked by a Plancher family attorney during the deposition whether there were athletic trainers around when UCF finished agility drills and lined up for an obstacle course the players were not expecting inside the indoor practice facility on March 18, 2009.
"Yes, there were trainers around," Davis said, according to the transcript of the deposition taken Feb. 14. "Then moments later once everything was really set up, Coach O'Leary told everyone to leave. The water to leave and the trainers to leave."
Davis was then asked, "What do you mean, he told you – the water to leave?"
Davis responded, "He just said, I don't want any water. All waters I want outside, and I want the trainers to get away from the players and please go outside. He screamed it and that's what happened."
Davis stated Plancher had labored breathing, uncharacteristically lagged behind his teammates and fell flat on his face trying to sprint down the field. Davis indicated athletic trainer Robert Jackson did not assist Plancher until after the workout ended, Plancher collapsed and teammates were helping carry him out of the indoor practice facility.
Orange County Circuit Judge Robert M. Evans determined attorneys representing the UCF board of trustees and UCF Athletic Association should be given one week to complete their cross examination of Davis before he decides whether to allow the Planchers to seek punitive damages.
"This is a linchpin," Evans said of Davis' deposition. "… It was a pretty powerful statement."
Shapiro, the attorney speaking on behalf of UCF, responded. "If true."
Shapiro contends Davis statements were false and misinformation. The attorney said Davis indicated during his deposition that the team was doing leg weight lifting when the players were actually doing upper body weight lifting before the agility drills and obstacle course in the indoor practice facility.
Davis is a former walk on wide receiver who indicated during his deposition he developed a close relationship with Plancher. He currently works for the Boys and Girls Club in Kissimmee.
Attorney Steven Yerrid, who spoke on behalf of the Plancher legal team, said Davis was no longer dependent on the UCF football program and was free to make statements about what happened that day.
UCF attorneys also asked Evans to reconsider his previous ruling that the UCF Athletic Association is a private entity not eligible for sovereign immunity, which caps payments by Florida agencies at $200,000.
Evans denied the UCF motion. He said it was a close call, but he stood by his previous decision. As a result, UCFAA could face unlimited claims in the case.
The judge noted his ruling could be reversed by the court of appeals.
email@example.com. Read Iliana Limón's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/knightsnotepad
Ex-UCF player says water withheld, trainer absent during Ereck Plancher's final workout
Judge will allow UCF to cross examine former player Anthony Davis, calls his statements linchpin in wrongful-death lawsuit
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.