Boy, 12, dies after restraint at camp

Published Feb. 6, 2000|Updated Sept. 26, 2005

Confined to a camp for youthful offenders, he dies after a confrontation with a counselor.

A 12-year-old boy confined near Ocala to an Eckerd Wilderness Camp for youthful offenders died early Saturday, hours after being restrained by a staff member during an altercation.

The Marion County Sheriff's Office said Michael Wiltsie became combative about 1:30 p.m. Friday during a group counseling session and was restrained by a counselor. The boy then "became unresponsive," sheriff's spokesman James Pogue said.

Camp officials began CPR and called 911, Pogue said. The boy was taken to Monroe Regional Medical Center and then to Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he was pronounced dead after midnight.

Wiltsie was from Anthony, a small town outside of Ocala. The cause of his death had not been determined Saturday. The name of the counselor involved in the incident was not released.

The Eckerd Wilderness Camp, known as E-KEL-ETU, at 19185 NE 13th St. in Silver Springs, is one of several in the state that treats in camp settings troubled youth ages 10 to 17.

The boy was staying at a "Level 6" camp, one that treats adolescents who have committed serious offenses, said Bill Bankhead, secretary of the state Department of Juvenile Justice.

"He had been in trouble," Bankhead said. "Kids at that facility have problems."

Officials did not say why Wiltsie was sent to the camp.

Bankhead said he didn't know Saturday exactly how many youths are at the camp. "It's not a big camp," he said.

The death is being investigated by the Marion County Sheriff's Office, the Department of Children and Families' child protection division and the inspector general of the juvenile justice department as well as the administration of the Eckerd camp, Bankhead said.

A description of the incident released by the Department of Juvenile Justice differed somewhat from that of the Sheriff's Office. It said the boy's injuries were sustained "after a staff member reportedly attempted to intervene in an altercation between the youth and another offender." Bankhead said the statement was worded ambiguously because he was not certain how the injuries occurred.

He said the boy's family was notified, but family members could not be reached for comment.

Bankhead said a youth drowned at one of the camps a couple of years ago, and another committed suicide, but he called death or serious injury at one of the camps "infrequent."

This is the first death Bankhead has dealt with since he became secretary of the department more than a year ago, he said. "This is my first one. It's not easy."