Football Coach Blamed After Player Dies Following Drinking Binge

March 6, 2012 / Football
LA Daily News, Melissa Pamer


PANORAMA CITY – The mother of a 17-year-old Panorama High School football player who was found dead after a night of drinking said Monday that she blames one of her son’s coaches for the death. | See photo gallery.

Irma Guevara on Saturday morning found her son Salvador Preciado laying in his own vomit on the floor of a friend’s home. She said she’s angry with a coach who she claims gave her son a ride home from a party after the high school senior had passed out.

“I felt it was his responsibility to call me or call 911,” Guevara said of the coach. “I blame him for (Salvador’s) death. I blame the coach.

Teenagers are teenagers – they are scared when they see something they don’t think is right. A coach is a coach.”

Preciado, whom fellow Panorama High students described as a friendly, well-liked guy who was not known to drink alcohol, died Saturday morning at a home just blocks from his parents’ apartment.

Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Mission Division are investigating the death, saying it appears to be alcohol-related and occurred after a party where Preciado passed out.

Detective Jim Freund, homicide coordinator for the division, said it is likely that Preciado died as a result of alcohol intoxication.

“It doesn’t appear to be a criminal homicide even though we’re looking at it and investigating. We’re all waiting for autopsy findings,” Freund said.

Freund said detectives had been unsuccessfully trying to reach the coach who witnesses said had given Preciado a ride. They were also investigating reports that Preciado’s drink may have been spiked.

A toxicology report could take more than eight weeks. Freund said an autopsy was expected Tuesday.

Starting at a vigil Saturday night, mourners placed candles, balloons, flowers and notes in front of Panorama High. A banner read: “Rest in Paradise Baby Boo. I love you.” A Panorama High baseball cap was hand-printed with “Big Sal #77, Gone Too Soon.”

Three senior girls heading to class on Monday said they knew “Sal” well, and were shocked by his death. They said he was known for bear hugs and was not a “party person” or a drinker.

“It’s very tragic what happened to him. It was his first time,” said cheerleader Kemberlyn Acevedo. “During lunch we all huddled together. We all prayed.”

Students posted their memories of Preciado on social media as well.

On Twitter, Destiny Flores wrote: “To a Tall Guy who always lit up the room with his Smile. R.I.P Salvador Preciado. We will miss you. #77.”

According to his recruiting profile on the college sports website ncsasports.org, Preciado was 6-foot-5-inches tall and weighed 290 pounds.

Crisis counselors were at the school during the Saturday night vigil and on Monday, Los Angeles Unified School District officials said.

In a statement, Superintendent John Deasy expressed condolences, noting Preciado was on the wrestling and track teams as well as being a football player.

“Although the incident occurred away from campus, and at an event not affiliated with the district in any way, nevertheless, we have launched an administrative investigation,” Deasy said.

Preciado was found dead at a home in the 8000 block of Cedros Avenue, not far from his parents’ apartment building.

Guevara said that her son’s friend had called her at 1:15 a.m. Saturday to let her know the boys had gone back to his house and that Preciado was already sleeping. Salvador had permission to go to the party but was supposed to be home by 1 a.m., Guevara said.

In the morning, when Preciado did not respond to cell phone calls, his mother went to the friend’s house and banged on the door, she said. When someone finally opened the door, Guevara found her son covered in a blanket on the living room floor.

“When I took off the blanket, I saw he was purple,” Guevara said. “I turned him over, I just saw vomit in his mouth. He’s dead.”

She started screaming. Paramedics who responded to a 911 call told her that Preciado had been dead for two to three hours, Guevara said.

Guevara said she later heard from a girl who was at the party – held in a home in the 8000 block of Saloma Avenue – that a boy had put something in Preciado’s drink. After that, the football player had begun “acting crazy” and jumping around.

He then hit his head and fell down. He was propped up in a chair and fell again, breaking the chair, Guevara said she was told.

Preciado’s friend then called a “Coach Molina,” who came and helped put the unconscious boy in his car and dropped the students off at the friend’s house, Guevara said.

Preciado’s family didn’t know the coach’s first name, and Panorama High football coaching staff did not respond to phone calls Monday.

Detective Freund said he was uncertain of the spelling of the coach’s name, or whether he was an employee or a volunteer. Freund confirmed police were trying to reach someone named Brian Molina.

“We’re still looking into his involvement in all this,” Freund said. “He’s not been cooperative.”

Preciado’s uncle and Irma’s brother Ismael Guevara, who also lives in the building, said the coach had shown up at the Cedros Avenue home on Saturday morning, after Preciado was found dead.

Ismael Guevara said the coach repeatedly told the family, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Catherine Rodriguez, whose daughter had known Salvador since they went to nearby Vista Middle School together, said she was helping the family find an attorney and deal with news media.

“He’s a good kid. He would walk around with his girlfriend on his arm. He would go straight home,” Rodriguez said of Salvador. “This is something the people in the community need to know about. These parties, they’re dangerous.”

Last year, Burroughs High administrators fired the Burbank school’s baseball coach and his three assistants and canceled the rest of the varsity season after an assistant coach supplied beer to players during a spring break tournament in Arizona.

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