Near tragedy avoided in Carbondale |

Near tragedy avoided in Carbondale

Jon Maletz
Aspen senior Stephen Buzbee, center, is sandwiched between the Colorado Rocky Mountain School goalkeeper and an Oysters defender as he fights for the ball during the second half Thursday afternoon in Carbondale. Aspen led, 3-1, before the game was called because of an injury.Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Every so often, we are not-so-subtly reminded that sport is about more than competition, wins and losses.Thursday’s boys soccer match in Carbondale between Aspen and Colorado Rocky Mountain School – a conference game sparked by excitement and energy at the onset – ended abruptly with fear, tears and near-tragedy.Midway through the second half with Aspen leading 3-1, CRMS’s Chris Sellers and the Skiers’ Henry Cote collided head-on while going for a ball in front of the Oysters’ net. Both players fell hard to the ground.As coaches and Cote’s father, Bo, rushed to his side, the Aspen senior began convulsing. Soon after, his heart and breathing reportedly stopped.

“It was frightening, and we can just pray that he’ll be OK,” Skiers assistant coach John Gillies said.For 15 seconds Cote lay motionless as his father, an emergency medical technician, performed CPR. For 15 seconds parents, friends and coaches burst out in tears and frantic screams, begging for those with cell phones to dial 911.For 15 long seconds, Skiers head coach Junior Sutherland pleaded with his player to stay alive.”I’ve never seen anything like this. It puts everything in perspective,” Sutherland said. “I kept telling Henry to breathe, to stay with us. I can’t believe I watched someone save another person’s life.”

While an understandably shaken Sellers sat up, holding his head in his hands, Bo was able to revive Cote. Cote continued to lay motionless as he and his father waited for the ambulance to arrive. It took close to 10 minutes.No emergency personnel were present at the game. Athletic trainers are present at all sporting events at Aspen High School, Aspen athletic director Carol Sams said.Players huddled together for support, trying desperately to comprehend the scene playing out before them. Onlookers stood in shocked silence with hands covering their faces as they waited for an update – any update. Then, the sound of ambulance sirens perked the ears of everyone standing by. Many rushed to move their cars to allow the emergency vehicles to get as close to the playing field as possible.

Both Cote and Sellers were placed on backboards, their heads firmly secured in neck braces. Cote was breathing and had movement in his arms and legs, Sams said. He was cognizant and had remembered going up for the ball. As the ambulance pulled out of the parking lot, heading 10 miles west to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, the crowd began to disperse. Referees gathered with both teams at the center of the field. Everyone agreed there was only one thing to do.”How can I ask a player to go out there and play after seeing something like that?” Sutherland said. “I hope I never have to go through anything like this again.”The game was halted with no decision regarding a rematch or how it will affect the standings.

It was a match Sutherland, his Aspen players and CRMS wished had never happened. Cote and Sellers were two of four players injured. Sutherland missed the collision because he was tending to junior forward Stephen Buzbee, who was taken out of the game after the heel of a defender’s cleat struck him above the left eye. In the first half, a CRMS player left the field in a Chevrolet Suburban after reportedly breaking his ankle.”It was just one of those strange days and you’ll never see one like it again,” Gillies said. “I feel for these kids. This is all part of life and growing up. When this kind of thing happens in a small community where everybody knows everybody, we’re all affected.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is

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