MISSION VIEJO, CA – A freestyler on the Trabuco Hills High School swim team died Wednesday, May 12 after he was found unconscious in the school swimming pool during swim practice, officials and witnesses said. Brian Graper, 18, a popular senior, was pronounced dead at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center shortly after he was brought there about 4 p.m.
Team members said Graper may have been swimming underwater to improve his lung capacity while other swimmers attended a meeting. “Evidently, he pushed himself too far and ended up blacking out,” said water polo player Jared Hayman, 18. Teammates noticed Graper floating in the water when their meeting broke up and dove in to try to help him. Swim coach Andy Garcia and a swimmer’s mother performed CPR until paramedics arrived.
An autopsy is scheduled, officials said.
Elaine Carter, spokeswoman for the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, said grief counselors will be at the school to help students and teachers deal with the death. “It’s not going to be an easy day,” she said. “This is generally a time of celebration of graduation. There is definitely a sense of loss among the students.” About 100 schoolmates gathered at Graper’s Trabuco Canyon home and said a prayer with his parents, said Chris Totman, 18, a teammate. “Everybody loved Brian,” Totman said.
Graper, a varsity swimmer and water polo player, was considered a leader by his peers. “He was an all-around good kid,” said Kevin Smith, who coached Graper for two years. “As far as I know he was in great health.”