HOLDEN (CBS) – It was the very first day of the well-known Zalgiris soccer summer camp, and the youngsters were all gung-ho.
None of them could have been prepared for what they’d witness.
It was just before 10 o’clock, when 12-year-old Josh Thibodeau collapsed on the field during a drill, and never got up.
Both of his brothers were nearby.
“People didn’t really believe it at first,” says soccer player Pat Myers, a family friend. “They thought it was a rumor — but it was real.”
“It’s shocking. It’s tragic.” adds friend Dan Diggins. “I’m so sorry for the Thibodeau family.”
WBZ-TV’s Ken MacLeod reports
The main fire station is right across the street from Wachusett Regional High School in Holden, so EMTs were on the scene within a minute or so.
Thibodeau’s parents were summoned by cell phone, and arrived in time to see their unconscious boy being loaded into the ambulance.
Josh was pronounced dead less than hour later at the UMass Medical Center.
“I actually cried when I heard about it,” says soccer mom Rose Dunn. “I don’t know the boy personally but it hits close to home when you also have a son at camp.”
A swarm of relatives and friends gathered at the Thibodeau house on Highland Street in Holden, trying to console each other.
The youngster’s parents and four siblings released a handwritten statement thanking those who tried to save him, and describing the Josh they knew.
“Josh was a kind-hearted, caring and loving son and brother,” the statement reads.
“His smile lit up our world. Josh was fun!”
But the family’s statement provides absolutely no insight — medical or otherwise — into what may have gone wrong on that field.
“I can’t physically imagine what they’re going through right now,” says Rose Dunn. “It’s so sad.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Doug Cope reports
As high school summer leaguers took to the same field Monday night, the morning tragedy still dominated the discussion among parents who came out to watch their sons.
Paul James of Paxton was among them.
“You can’t chain your kids up at home,” James says shaking his head. “They’ve gotta live their life and be active — and have fun. There’s risk in everything you do.”
And on that point, almost every parent agreed.
“You send your child off in the morning, hoping they’ll learn some life skills and have some fun,” offers Worcester City Councilor Rick Rushton. “You just hope at the end of the day they’ll be coming home to your safe arms.”
12-year-old Josh Thibodeau will not be.
The medical examiner has scheduled an autopsy in an effort to answer the question “Why?”
Thibodeau’s parents released this statement early Tuesday morning:
“Josh’s family would like the thank the Holden Police Department, Fire Department, and ER team at UMass for trying so hard to save our precious son’s life.
Josh was a kindhearted, caring, and loving son and brother. His smile lit up our world as well as his light- hearted, and borderline goofy personality. Josh loved sports and was an exemplary athlete, student, and friend. Josh was fun!
We are broken-hearted and will forever miss our ‘Moose.’
We beg that the media respect our privacy at this impossible time in our lives.
Deb, Ralph, Jake, Adam, Annabelle, and Amelia Thibodeau”