Evan Murray, the Warren Hills Regional High School quarterback who died Friday after walking off the field, died of “massive internal bleeding,” according to a medical examiner in Morris County who conducted the autopsy.
The tragic death of the 17-year-old senior three-sport athlete generated national headlines over the weekend. According to wire reports, witnesses said Murray walked off the field after being hit in the backfield in the second quarter of a Friday night home game against Summit. A short time later, he apparently collapsed on the sideline and was taken by ambulance to Morristown Medical Center.
Saturday, an autopsy was conducted by the Morris County Medical Examiner’s Office, which provides services to Morris, Sussex and Warren Counties, according to Morris County spokesman Larry Ragonese. Morris County Medical Examiner Dr. Ronald Suarez conducted the autopsy.
“The autopsy determined that the cause of death was massive intra-abdominal hemorrhage (massive internal bleeding) due to a laceration of the spleen,” Ragonese wrote in a public statement. “During the examination, Dr. Suarez determined that the spleen was abnormally enlarged, thus making it more susceptible to injury. There was no evidence of head trauma or heart disease. The manner of death was accidental.”
Warren Hills Regional district Interim Superintendent Gary Bowen said the school community is “deeply saddened” by his death. Grief counselors were made available to students in the district, who hail from Franklin, Oxford, Mansfield and Washington townships and Washington borough.
According to the school’s website, a JV football game and a freshman boys soccer game were postponed Monday, while other interscholastic sporting events were expected to be played Monday and throughout the week. Whether freshman and varsity football games scheduled for Friday will be played, however, is “to be determined.”
Coaches, students and community members gathered at the school’s football field Saturday for a memorial.
Members of the school community said they were shocked by Murray’s death. “I can’t comprehend what happened,” said one parent.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the New York Jets football team were among dozens of people and groups from around the country who posted condolences via social media Saturday.
“On behalf of all the people of New Jersey, Mary Pat and I send our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the Murray family on the loss of Evan,” Christie posted on Twitter.
“It’s a tragedy and our heartfelt condolences to the family and the whole Warren Hills community,” said Michael Cherenson, spokesman for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.
A GoFundMe project for the family was started Saturday and has raised more than $50,000 by Monday afternoon.
According to the University of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, 77 high school football players have died nationwide as the result of injuries directly related to the game in the past two decades.
The center reported five direct fatalities on the scholastic gridiron last season, during which about 1.1 million high school players competed, according to National Federation of State High School Association data. Direct fatalities are classified as deaths that occurred as the result of competition.
The Associated Press and USA Today High School Sports contributed to this report.