By KELLI B. GRANT and LaMOND POPE
Team captain struck in chest with ball; prolonged resuscitation efforts fail
ITHACA -- A Cornell University lacrosse player died Wednesday evening after being struck in the chest with the ball during a game.
Senior George Boiardi, 22, was pronounced dead at 6:44 p.m., shortly after being transported to Cayuga Medical Center, said Simeon Moss, spokesman for Cornell University. Moss said the official cause of death had not been determined.
Boiardi, a captain and defenseman from Washington, D.C., was defending a shot on goal with 2 minutes, 33 seconds left in the game against Binghamton University at Schoellkopf Field. After the ball struck him in the chest, above the heart, Boiardi took a few steps before falling to the ground.
Spectators were uncertain of what happened as they saw Boiardi fall.
"When he fell over, they (the officials) came right out," said Judi McMonagle, mother of Cornell goalie Matt McMonagle. She and other parents and fans had been watching the game from the Hall of Fame Room in Schoellkopf Hall.
Dave Burbank, public information officer for the Ithaca Fire Department, said emergency personnel were on the scene three minutes after taking the call at 5:49 p.m.
McMonagle said she saw personnel trying to restore Boiardi's pulse through CPR and with defibrillators. Burbank confirmed that Boiardi received advanced life support on the scene, but would not comment on the nature or extent of the player's injuries.
On the field, players and bystanders alike were immobile and silent in the falling snow, waiting as rescue personnel performed CPR and readied Boiardi for transfer to the waiting ambulance. Boiardi was loaded into the ambulance at 6:05 p.m., with personnel still working on him. The ambulance left the field at 6:15 p.m.
Players from both teams knelt down on the field, rising only after Boiardi was placed in the ambulance. The game was halted at that point, with Cornell winning, 9-6. Inside the ground floor of Schoellkopf Hall, members of the women's lacrosse team pressed against the doors of the locker room to look out onto the field. Still in uniform for practice, the women silently watched and waited to hear news of the incident. Many stood with hands pressed against their mouths; others sat leaning against the wall, sobbing quietly.
Upstairs, parents and other fans milled around, comforting each other and surveying the field from above. One man held binoculars, relaying each move of the rescue personnel to those nearby in a hushed voice. A few others whispered into cell phones, telling of what had transpired.
Cornell team players who were informed of Boiardi's death met with the Cornell crisis team and the athletic department late Wednesday for counseling.
Cornell athletics director Andy Noel said in a statement, "Cornell's athletic community is absolutely devastated by this tragic loss. "George was a terrific person, a great team leader and an excellent student, in fact one of the finest students at the university. This loss cannot be measured. Our hearts and prayers go out to George's family, his friends and his teammates."
Mario St. George Boiardi, a history major in the College of Arts and Sciences, was known for his work ethic and defense. He was voted the team's rookie of the year in 2001.
He was an 11-time letter winner at the Landon School in Washington, D.C., a known lacrosse power. He was an all-league selection as a senior and an all-star pick with Landon's lacrosse team.
Responding agencies were the Ithaca Fire Department, Bangs Ambulance, Cornell University EMS and Cornell Police.
Two helicopters were called in -- one from the Guthrie Clinic in Sayre, Pa., and one from Mercy Flight in Canandaigua -- but neither was able to make it due to weather conditions.