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Superintendent calls death of high school football player "freak accident"

ELWOOD, N.Y. -- School officials are calling the death of Long Island high school football player, who collapsed after colliding with an opponent during a game, a "freak accident," reports CBS New York.

Tom Cutinella, a 16-year-old junior at Shoreham-Wading River High School, died Wednesday after being injured during the third quarter of the game at John Glenn High School in Elwood.

Superintendent Steven Cohen said Thursday that Cutinella, a guard and linebacker, collided with an opponent on the field, had an "immediate reaction," stood up and then collapsed.

He was taken to the hospital and rushed into the intensive care unit after undergoing surgery, but never recovered.

At the hospital Wednesday night, relatives, friends, teammates and coaches waited for news on his condition. As word of his death spread, some fell to the floor crying.

School officials said Thursday an exact cause of death has not yet been determined, but said they believe he suffered a head injury.

"I think it was the result of a typical football play," Cohen said. "It was just a freak accident. The game involves contact, and it was the result of a freak, football play."

Many parents in the community were shocked by the news of Cutinella's death.

"Both my boys are very active in sports, and it scares the hell out of me," one parent told WCBS 880's Mike Xirinachs. "Every parent's worst nightmare."

Jack Costas, a member of the Shoreham-Wading River School Board, said students are also devastated.

"It's an unbelievable experience for children their age, and it's going to be difficult for them to deal with it," he told John Montone of radio station WINS.

Principal Daniel Holtzman said Cutinella was "amazing academically" and that he "exemplified the values and morals that were instilled in him."

"He comes from a tremendous family," Holtzman said. "And he will be missed."

Holtzman said grief counselors are on hand at the school Thursday for students.

"We're allowing students to support one another in the hallways, go into the library to speak with a counselor, building administration is also available, teachers are available," Holtzman said.

One 10th-grader told 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera that no one could believe Cutinella was dead.

"Today, the first couple periods, it was really quiet," he said. "Everyone was crying and stuff, and it was really sad."

According to CBS New York, Cutinella is the third high school football player to die in recent days across the U.S.

Costas said the district will begin a review of its equipment, safety procedures and medical screenings. Cohen also said the school will be looking into the type of helmet the teen was wearing.

"I know that's a concern of people, and we are going to be reviewing all of the equipment, as well as everything else that happened in this event," he said.

A vigil is also set to be held at the school Thursday evening.

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