Please pray for Brian and Kathy, I can’t imagine what they are going through right now. I work with Kathy and we all go to the same church, so it hits very close to home, but moreso I think about losing my one and only child and how heartbreaking that would be.
UPDATED: Niceville football player dies after in-game collision
FORT WALTON BEACH – A 15-year-old Niceville High School football player died Saturday after he was hurt in a game Friday night, saddened school officials said.
Taylor Haugen’s injury was “very unusual” – so severe and so instantaneous that no one could save his life, said Okaloosa County Public Safety Director Dino Villani.
“Everyone did all they could do, from the school personnel to our EMS folks to fire(fighters) and the hospital,” he said. “The system was there. I think everyone did all they could do for him. It’s just a tragedy.”
Haugen, a sophomore wide receiver, was hurt in a collision with two Fort Walton Beach players during the second half of the game, said Okaloosa County Schools Superintendent Alexis Tibbetts.
He died Saturday morning at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Tibbetts said. “It’s such an emotional time. It’s almost impossible to explain how emotional it is for the family, team and coaches.”
Haugen was a member of the junior varsity squad, which played the second half of the Kickoff Classic. The varsity teams played in the first half.
A doctor was in the crowd, and an ambulance responded to take Haugen to the hospital. It responded from its station nearby, not from the field, Villani said. Ambulances often are stationed at football games in case of injuries.
The response time was less than five minutes.
Officials also launched a medical helicopter – which would have taken Haugen to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola – but rescuers on the ground decided they didn’t have that much time.
“The injuries were so severe that we couldn’t wait on the helicopter. It was definitely a load-and-go,” Villani said.
He said Haugen suffered a fatal abdominal injury but didn’t provide details.
“He came off (the field) jogging and as he started to walk he got wobbly as he got to the sideline,” Niceville High School coach John Hicks said.
Haugen’s teammates and other classmates gathered at Niceville First Methodist Church on Saturday evening where they could console each other as well as speak with a counselor.
“We’re going to try and do the best we can,” Hicks said. “I’m most concerned about his parents right now and what they’re going through and our football team.
“We are just going to try to take it one day at a time.”
He said Haugen always had a positive attitude and a smile on his face. He loved football and his teammates.
The school district was providing grief counseling for fellow students, teammates and staff.
“This is an extremely emotional time for our players and coaches and the entire community and Okaloosa Schools will continue to encourage and support each other and the Haugen family during this difficult time,” Tibbetts said in a statement.
Taylor’s parents are Brian and Kathy Haugen of Valparaiso. They could not be reached for comment Saturday.
A time of visitation will be from 1:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008, at the First United Methodist Church of Niceville Community Life Center. A funeral service will follow at 3:30 p.m. Interment will follow in Heritage Gardens Cemetery.
Daily News Sports Editor Jared Macarin contributed to this report.