A Long Island high school football player died after colliding with another player during a game Wednesday evening, authorities said.
Tom Cutinella, a 16-year-old junior at Shoreham-Wading River High School in Shoreham, was pronounced dead at Huntington Hospital after collapsing on the field during the third quarter of a varsity football game at John Glenn High School in Elwood, according to a statement from school district superintendent Steven Cohen.
Family and friends at the game said Cutinella stood up immediately after the hit, then collapsed.
The school superintendent called it a "freak accident" that cast "a pall over the football season." It wasn't clear what kind of helmet Cutinella was using.
Dozens of teammates, relatives and friends waited at the hospital for an update on his condition. As news of his death spread, two people fell to the floor weeping.
Cutinella had played football at Shoreham-Wading since ninth grade and this year made the varsity team. He played as an offensive lineman and linebacker.
He was also on the lacrosse team and was a member of a peer mentoring program. Cohen said that he was well-liked and studious.
"He excelled academically, had a great sense of humor and was just a great individual overall,” Cohen said. "He was well-liked among students and staff and he will truly be missed.”
Classmate Charlie Moore said Cutinella was a "really athletic kid, and he was smart, too. Everybody knew him, and everybody loved him. He was just a genuinely nice kid."
Principal Dan Holtzman said students and staff were reeling from the tragedy Thursday.
"A lot of hugging, a lot of questions, a lot of shock. Everyone, including the adults in the building, is just trying to process what happened," he said.
Grief counselors are being made available at the school in the wake of Cutinella’s death and the school had planned a candlelight vigil for Thursday night.
Cutinella is the third tri-state youth to die playing football this school year.
Sixteen-year-old Miles Kirkland, of Staten Island, and 12-year-old Jeremiah Pierce, of Salem, New Jersey, both died during practices in September.
-- Greg Cergol contributed to this report. Follow Greg Cergol on Twitter @GREGCERGOL4NY