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West Valley High School head football coach Roy Hessner has resigned, according to a Thursday email to parents and staff from Karen Gaborik, superintendent of Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

Hessner’s resignation follows a swimming incident that occurred during what the school district previously called an optional preseason football activity hosted by seven members of the football coaching staff July 26 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Center pool. During the activity, the school district said a “team building exercise” resulted in three of the approximately 40 participating students being transported to the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital after they were pulled from the deep end of the pool unresponsive. 

“The lifeguard and several others at the pool performed CPR until the first responders arrived,” UAF spokesperson Marmian Grimes told the News-Miner by email Thursday.

As of Wednesday, all students were released from the hospital.

“This incident has shaken not only the students and staff involved, but also parents, families, employees and others who support high school football in our community. … An investigation of the incident is being conducted by Risk Management that will include interviewing those involved. Once the investigation is complete, I will review the recommendations and make decisions about how we move forward,” the letter stated.

The school district has not responded to the News-Miner’s question about how long the investigation will take.

Norm Davis, a teacher at University Park Elementary who has previously helped coach football and wrestling at West Valley, is acting head coach. Official West Valley football practices began Wednesday.

“I will continue to provide updates regarding the incident as soon as I can,” Gaborik said in the email. “Thank you for being patient with this process, I understand that it can be difficult and, like you, I want answers as soon as possible.”

In addition to the school district’s investigation, the UAF Police Department began its own investigation immediately after the incident. The UAFPD investigation is independent of the school district’s and “will likely be several more weeks” until it’s complete.

An opportunity for public comment will occur at 6 p.m. Monday during a special session school board meeting. 

Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMSports

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