Burrell High School football player collapses at practice, dies

| Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, 11:00 p.m.

A Burrell High School football player died on Wednesday at the first day of heat acclimation practice for the team.

Noah Cornuet, 16, a sophomore, collapsed at 6:03 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. in Allegheny Valley Hospital, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said. An autopsy is planned for Thursday morning.

Investigators said Cornuet had just finished doing sprints and was walking off the field when he collapsed. Paramedics were already at the field as a precaution for practice and immediately began to work on him. The team's practice field is located behind the high school in Lower Burrell.

Burrell superintendent Shannon Wagner released a statement from the district late Wednesday night:

“The Burrell School District community recognizes the tragic loss of a student tonight. Our crisis team has been activated and is available to assist students, staff, and the community as we cope with this loss. Support will be available at the high school over the coming days and the beginning of the school year. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

School board members contacted Wednesday evening said they were “concerned” and “upset” by the incident but refused to discuss the matter or provide any details.

Burrell Athletic Director Aaron Frech referred all questions on the matter to Wagner, saying only that Wednesday's practice had been “cut short.” Head football coach Kevin Horwatt did not respond to calls for comment.

Wednesday was the first day high school teams began holding heat acclimation sessions. Teams are scheduled to conduct the sessions on Thursday and Friday to prepare for full-contact practices starting on Monday.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association instituted heat acclimation sessions in 2013 as a way to ease football players into strenuous, late-summer training and possibly prevent heat-related ailments. The rule required that teams practice outdoors on three consecutive days, with no individual session running longer than three hours and no full day including more than five hours of cumulative training; however, each team must practice a minimum of three hours each day.

Players may wear helmets and shoulder pads the first two days, but contact is not permitted. Full pads may be worn on the third day of heat acclimation.

Throughout the evening, reactions to Cornuet's death flowed on Twitter, the hashtag “#RIPNoah” attached to several of them. Cami Zottola tweeted: “My heart hurts for the Cornuet family. Can't believe something so horrible happened to such a sweet kid.”

Other tweets included:

Haylee Roach: “It's crazy how such horrible things happen to the nicest people. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Cornuet family.”

Senior running back Ryan Sowol: “My prayers go out to the Cornuet family. Rest in peace Noah.”

Senior basketball standout Sydney Bordonaro: “I don't understand why bad things happen to good people. RIP Noah. The Cornuet family is in my prayers.”

Highlands quarterback Blake Leri: “My condolences go out to the Burrell football team and their loss. Never easy.”

As late as 11 p.m., students and adults gathered in the high school gymnasium and near the main entrance of the building to console one another during a loosely organized vigil. More than two dozen cars sat in the parking lot, where smaller groups of students lingered.

Trib Total Media staff writers Bill West, Emily Balser, Chuck Biedka, Michael Hasch and Bill Beckner Jr. contributed to this report.

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