Boy's pleas for aid denied; Inhaler withheld, restrained teen died
By Craig Schneider, Jill Young Miller - Staff
Atlanta Constitution-Journal, May 7, 2005

A 13-year-old Douglas County boy who died after being restrained at a camp for troubled youngsters asked counselors for his asthma inhaler while he was held down, but no one gave it to him, state records show.

A Department of Human Resources report on the April 20 incident said Travis Parker asked for his inhaler during the first 10 to 15 minutes of the restraint, which lasted about an hour and a half. But because the boy was not wheezing or showing signs of an asthmatic attack, camp counselors said, they did not provide him with it, the report said.

Travis went limp during the restraint and counselors could not feel his pulse, the records show. He died the next day at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, after being taken off life support.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident, which occurred at the Appalachian Wilderness Camp, an outdoor therapeutic program operated by the DHR in the North Georgia mountains. The results of an autopsy are pending.

On Friday, the boy's family made their first public statement since his death.

"The family of Travis Parker is devastated and outraged by his passing at such a tender age and in such a horrendous manner," said the statement provided by attorney Michael Tyler.

The boy's grandmother, Golden Griffin, who had been raising Travis, is in a state of "profound shock and grief," the statement said.

"The family of Travis Parker expected that at the Appalachian Wilderness camp, Travis would receive nurturing and support," the statement said. "Instead, sadly it appears the young Travis Parker received brutality and death."

The DHR file on the boy, obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution through the state Open Records law, contains a detailed account of the incident compiled by Sarah Hopper, consumer protection manager for the agency's North Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases. The account is based on interviews with counselors involved in the incident and children who witnessed it.

The report says that one counselor, a certified wilderness emergency medical technician, "saw no indication of an asthmatic attack so did not break the hold in order to give Travis his inhaler."

"He was laughing, screaming and yelling. He had a history of asking for his inhaler when in a hold. He was not wheezing.''

Counselors told Hopper that the boy had used his inhaler only once since he had begun the camp two months before.

Dr. Amy Hirsh, of the Peachtree Allergy and Asthma Clinic in Atlanta, would not comment on the incident specifically, but said: "Untrained medical professionals should not make a judgment call on whether a patient needs his or her rescue inhaler or not. If a child asks for a rescue inhaler, they should be given it immediately without questioning whether they need it or not."

Ten children witnessed the boy's restraint, the DHR file said. Some of the boys who were there said that when Travis went limp the counselors said, "He is playing the dead fish game, he's faking."

Counselors, who provided handwritten accounts of the incident, say they repeatedly checked to ensure the boy was being restrained correctly. He continued to violently resist, they said.

The boy was placed in a "full basket restraint," a separate incident report by the state Department of Juvenile Justice said. He was held face down on the ground. His arms were crossed in front of him and held from behind by one counselor, the incident report said. He was forced to the ground, where another counselor held his legs and another counselor held his hips, the report said.

The juvenile justice agency doesn't allow the method of face-down restraint used by the counselors because it can restrict breathing.

One counselor wrote that he checked Travis' breathing and circulation several times during the restraint. At one point, he said, another counselor tried to remove a rock that Travis said was hurting his head. The boy bit his hand, the counselor said.

Another counselor said in his account that a blanket was placed under Travis to make him more comfortable during the hold.

At 11 p.m., he said, the boy was still fighting. At 11:30 p.m., another counselor reported, "Travis stops responding and is released from restraint."

A partial list of boot camp victims
    Michelle Sutton, dead at age 15, Summit Quest
    Kristen Chase, dead at age 16, Challenger
    Paul Choy, dead at age 16, Rite of Passage
    Aaron Bacon, dead at age 16, Northstar
    Dawnne Takeuchi, dead at age 18, VisionQuest
    Lorenzo Johnson, dead at age 17, Arizona Boys Ranch
    Carlos Ruiz, dead at age 13, VisionQuest
    Mario Cano, dead at age 16, VisionQuest
    John Vincent Garrison, dead at age 18, VisionQuest
    Bernard Reefer, dead, VisionQuest
    Robert Zimmerman, dead, VisionQuest
    Charles Lucas, dead, VisionQuest
    James Lamb, dead, VisionQuest
    Tammy Edmiston, dead, VisionQuest
    Leon Anger, dead, VisionQuest
    Charles Collins, Jr., dead at age 15, Crossroads for Youth
    Jamie Young, dead at age 13, Ramsey Canyon
    John Avila, dead, Rocky Mountain Academy
    Danny Lewis, dead at age 16, VisionQues
    Nicholas Contreras, dead at age 16, Arizona Boys Ranch
    Edith Campos, dead at age 15, Desert Hills
    Matt Toppi, dead at age 17, Robert Land Academy
    Chirs Brown, dead at age 16, Robert Land Academy
    Eric David Schibley, dead at age 17, VisionQuest
    Chad Andrew Frenza, dead at age 16, Polk County Boot Camp
    Robert Doyle Erwin, dead at age 15, VisionQuest
    Lyle Foodroy, dead, VisionQuest
    Gina Score, dead at age 14, State Training School (South Dakota)
    Bryan Dale Alexander, dead at age 18, Texas Correctional Services
    Michael Wiltsie, dead at age 12, Eckert Youth Alternatives
    Tristan Sovern, dead at age 16, Charter Behavioral Health System
    Robert Rollins, dead at age 12, Devereaux School
    Andrew McClain, dead at age 11, Elmcrest Psychiatric Hospital
    Anthony Haynes, dead at age 14, American Buffalo Soldiers Boot Camp
    Ian August, dead at age 14, Skyline Journey
    Charles "Chase" Moody, dead at age 17, The Brown School (CEDU affiliated)
    Roberto Reyes, dead at age 15, Thayer Learning Center Boot Camp
    Travis Parker, dead at age13, Appalachian Wilderness Camp


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