ST. GEORGE – On July 22, 2014, Marjie Jones and her husband, Paul Jones, of St. George, received news no parent ever wants to hear: Their youngest child had died.
Kade Jones, 13, had traveled to Salt Lake City to attend a multiday basketball camp at Westminster College with one of his best friends. He and his friend were rooming together at the camp, and his friend’s grandmother had also traveled to Salt Lake and was staying nearby, to be close in case the boys needed anything.
Kade’s departure for camp was the last time Paul and Marjie saw him alive.
“What we want people to know is he was a beautiful, kindhearted, fun-loving, happy, happy kid,” Marjie Jones said, “and he deserves more than to just die at a huge basketball camp and it all be swept under the rug. And other parents need to know that this could happen to their child.”
In court documents, Westminster College denies any responsibility for Kade’s death. A press statement issued by the college called the incident “a very tragic situation.” Beyond the brief media statement issued, the college is not commenting further about the matter at this time.
The Joneses’ account of events
At age 13, Kade was already almost 6 feet tall, Marjie Jones said, and he loved sports. He had been asking to go to basketball camp for a long time. In 2014, his parents agreed to let him go, and he was signed up for the overnight camp at Westminster College.
Kade was a Type 1 diabetic, but he had never before gotten sick as a result of the disease, Marjie Jones said.
“Kade had never been sick from his diabetes, not once,” she said.
Marjie Jones and her husband had worried about Kade’s future and how diabetes would impact his health as he grew up, she said, but they never dreamed they would lose him while he was under the supervision of the many employees, trainers and coaches at Westminster’s basketball camp.
When Kade arrived at Westminster College for the camp, Marjie Jones said, he called home, happy and excited to let his parents know he’d gotten there.
“That was the last time I spoke to him,” she said.
Marjie Jones said they still don’t know all the details of what happened to their son, but she said they’ve been told Kade became sick shortly after the camp started.
“We know that after arriving at the camp, Kade became sick and started vomiting,” she said, “and he became progressively sicker as the day wore on.”
They were told Kade was sent to a trainer’s room to rest after he became sick, she said, and he didn’t participate in the camp activities for the rest of the day and didn’t eat lunch or dinner.
Though Kade’s entrance paperwork for the camp detailed that he had Type 1 diabetes and also listed his medications, his doctor’s information and emergency contact information for his parents and a close family friend staying in Salt Lake City, Marjie Jones said, no one received a phone call from the camp informing them Kade was ill. Kade wasn’t given any medical attention, she said, and none of the camp employees ever checked Kade’s medical paperwork, or if they did, they did nothing about it.
“I mean, everything was there,” Marjie Jones said. “They required the medical information for him to go to camp and then failed to use that information to save his life.”
After arriving at camp, Kade developed a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, which can be fatal if left untreated. Vomiting is a critical symptom of the illness, Marjie Jones said.
According to information from the Mayo Clinic, a doctor should be called immediately if a person with Type 1 diabetes is vomiting and is unable to tolerate food or liquid.
Marjie Jones said she didn’t expect the camp workers to be medical experts, but when her son became so ill that he was throwing up and couldn’t participate in the camp activities, she and her husband should have been notified.
“One phone call and he’d still be here today,” Paul Jones said.
Kade shouldn’t have been the one in charge of making that call, Paul Jones added, when he was so sick and showing signs and symptoms of DKA.
As sick as he would’ve been with DKA, Marjie Jones said, Kade wouldn’t have been alert enough to call home, and phone records show his cellphone wasn’t used again after he made that first call to let his parents know he had arrived at camp.
“Which is another telling thing,” Marjie Jones said, “because for a 13-year-old kid with an iPhone, if they’re lying around bored, that’s all they want to do is be on their phone, but he never (texted), he never sent a call, nothing for the rest of the day or night.”
“We were told that Kade and his friend were escorted to the dorm room and left unattended throughout the night,” she said.
The second morning of camp, Marjie Jones said, Kade’s friend left the dorm room to take a shower. He told her Kade was snoring when he left. She said he may have been in a diabetic coma at that point.
When Kade’s roommate came back, she said, he found Kade on the floor. He had a huge gash on his eye and cheek, as if he had fallen out of bed and collided with something, like the nightstand.
In the end, Marjie Jones said, it was a paramedic who called to deliver the news that her son had died. At that point, she said, they had still never received any phone calls from the basketball camp or from Westminster College.
Because Kade had never been sick from his diabetes and had never experienced a medical episode like this, she said, her son wouldn’t have known what was happening when he became sick.
“He was very healthy, other than his diabetes,” she said, “so I’m very sure that Kade didn’t understand what was happening. He had never gone into DKA. He didn’t understand. He had no idea what was going on, and had anyone just picked up the phone and called us when he became sick and began vomiting, we could’ve said, ‘Hey, call 911. Get him to the hospital.’”
Marjie Jones said:
In the beginning, the very first days, I had a call from some security manager, head of security, and the dean of the college, and they both admitted to me, they said – the security guy said to me – ‘Mrs. Jones, we have policies to handle emergencies and somewhere we failed, and we’re going to investigate and we’re going to find out.’
The Jones family and Westminster College are currently in the midst of a lawsuit regarding Kade’s death.
“Westminster should take responsibility for their choice to do nothing, because our son is never coming back,” Marjie Jones said. “It is why we filed a lawsuit, to ensure that Westminster and other institutions fulfill their promises to keep our children safe.”
According to court documents, Westminster College denies any wrongdoing or responsibility in connection with the death. Court documents filed on behalf of the college allege Kade may already have been sick when he checked into the camp and that he was not held out of any activities “but was allowed to sit out or stay in according to how he was feeling at the time.” Documents also state Kade participated in some of the basketball camp activities the first morning of camp and stayed in the gym watching at times.
“Westminster admits that (Kade) also spent a significant portion of his time resting in the trainer’s office,” the court documents say.
Legal documents filed on the college’s behalf also assign negligence to Kade, his parents, his roommate, his roommate’s grandmother and any physicians who may have approved Kade for participation in an overnight camp.
A spokesperson for Westminster College said the school is not commenting on the matter at this time beyond the following statement:
This is a very tragic situation, and nothing can replace the young man’s positive impact in the lives of his friends and family. We are and have been committed to doing all we can to help his loved ones through this incident. We have worked to respond to the needs of the Jones family since this tragedy first occurred. We also have engaged in multiple efforts to ensure his memory lives on.
We are disappointed that despite our best and reasonable efforts, including offering a significant, confidential sum, that the family has chosen to take further action. We are still working in good faith to try and resolve their claims.
We have reached out extensively to the Jones family and paid for all expenses, we are grieving as an institution also and express our deepest sympathies. We are attempting to resolve any concerns the parents may bring forward.
The college offered to assist with funeral fees and other costs in the beginning, Marjie Jones said, but everything changed when it became known that she and her husband were suing the school.
Paul Jones said if he and his wife win the lawsuit, they want to put the money awarded into a charity to promote Type 1 diabetes awareness and to benefit diabetic kids.
“We don’t want this to be for nothing,” Marjie Jones said. “I mean, our child died, and we need people to know and understand what happened, and we need it to help other people. Kade would’ve wanted that. He loved people. He loved helping others. He loved kids, and we just don’t want to sit here and wallow in our self-pity. We want to make his life matter, and we don’t want people to forget him.”
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