Plancher, a 19-year-old freshman from Naples, collapsed during off-season conditioning drills March 18 supervised by UCF Coach George O'Leary and his staff. Plancher was taken to a nearby hospital and died less than an hour later.
"The Plancher family has been frustrated by the fact that they have not been able to get an accurate account of what happened during the conditioning drills on March 18," Dowell said in a news release. "They feel very strongly that they do not want any other families to go through what they are going through."
The notification of the intent to file a lawsuit by the firm of Pitisci, Dowell, Markowitz and Murphy arrived via a registered letter sent to the board of trustees and Alex Sink, chief financial officer of Florida Department of Financial Services. The letter, signed by Dowell, alleges:
"That on or about March 18, 2008, Ereck Plancher was performing a workout that included weightlifting, conditioning and agility drills as a member of the University of Central Florida football team.
"While participating in those drills, Ereck Plancher was overexerted, collapsed and subsequently died. While participating in these drills, Ereck Plancher experienced exhaustion, dizziness, shortness of breath and other signs of extreme fatigue that were ignored by trainers and/or coaches of the University of Central Florida.
"As a direct and proximate result of the University of Central Florida's negligence, Ereck Plancher collapsed and died.
"Please be advised that Enock Plancher, as personal representative of the Estate of Ereck Plancher, intends to pursue all claims and damages entitled to the survivors and the Estate pursuant of to the Florida Wrongful Death Act."
UCF spokesman Grant Heston confirmed the university had received the claim.
"The health of our student-athletes is our top priority, and we provide superb medical care at UCF," Heston said. "Per university policy, we do not comment on matters that are in pending litigation."
An autopsy conducted by the Orange County medical examiner found the stress of the workout triggered the trait, causing the sickling of blood cells in Plancher's organs that shut down his body.
Sickle-cell trait is a genetic flaw that affects the protein in red blood cells carrying oxygen to the body's tissue and organs. About 2.5 to 3.5 million Americans have the sickle-cell trait, which typically does not produce any symptoms but can cause a severe reaction during intense physical activity, extreme heat and dehydration.
Heston said the school learned Plancher had the sickle-cell trait during a January 2007 physical.
Dowell said in a phone interview with the Sentinel that the Plancher family is still grieving and declined to grant any interviews.
Under Florida statute, the Planchers cannot file a lawsuit until UCF either denies the negligence claim or six months have passed.
Dowell said the attorneys have been conducting their own investigation and seek details from UCF's internal probe.
"At this time we are not going to make any comment on specific allegations and accusations," Dowell said. "Obviously the university and their employees were in control of the conditioning drills and responsible for Ereck during that time."
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