The family of a Vermont state trooper who died last year at a tryout is speaking out for the first time.
The tragedy has lead to changes in policies within the Vermont Department of Public Safety. Many of those changes have been implemented at tryouts this week.
KYLE YOUNG: GROWING UP
“It says ‘Thanks for everything. Love, Kyle’,” said Ginny Woolf, reading a Mother’s Day card from her son, at her home in Watertown, New York.
Ginny Woolf is the mother of Vermont State Trooper Kyle Young. He’s a young man most of us learned about on his last day alive, but a son Ginny loved since his very first.
“My family was complete,” she says about the day Kyle was born.
Ginny and her children, Mandy Wilson and CJ Young, Kyle’s older siblings, describe him the same way: “out-going,” “fun,” “the life of the party.”
“If he was in the room, everybody was laughing, always. He always was goofy,” said Mandy Wilson, Kyle’s sister.
“He had a sense of humor like no one else. His sense of humor…you couldn’t find somebody else with that sense of humor,” said CJ Young, Kyle’s brother.
Kyle Young played lacrosse and football at General Brown High School in Dexter, New York.
He was an athletic kid who was always in shape, they say.
“He’s done that for years, worked out, all the time,” remembered his sister, Mandy.
DEPLOYED WITH THE AIR FORCE
After high school, Kyle enlisted in the Air Force.
“Knowing that he would get deployed was very tough on us,” said his mother, Ginny.
He was deployed five times to Iraq and Afghanistan and eventually became a sniper.
During this time, Kyle became a father for the first time, when his daughter, Kaydence, was born.
“Great father. He would come home on his weekends off,” Ginny said, referring to when Kyle was a Vermont state trooper. “He would come home at night, whenever, to be here for Kaydence’s events, cheerleading, dance recitals.”
Kyle became a father again in 2014 when his daughter, Kinley, was born.
JOINING VERMONT STATE POLICE
Eventually, Kyle Young decided to enter the police force.
“There [were] no openings in New York state so he took the Vermont State troopers’,” said Ginny Woolf.
In January 2014, Kyle became a Vermont state trooper.
He had his eyes set on more though. Kyle Young’s dream was to be an FBI agent.
He decided to take steps to get there by trying out for the State Police Tactical Services Unit.
“Very excited. He wanted more,” said his mother. “That was Kyle. He always wanted to go up and up and up.”
SEPTEMBER 17, 2015: TRY OUT DAY
The 28-year old showed up for the tryouts at the Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho on September 17, 2015.
It was a sunny, 83 degree day, according to reports.
The intense tryouts consisted of a 1 mile run, lunges wearing a gas mask, a sandhill climb and many other challenges.
Documents related to this investigation show that Young was 10 minutes ahead of the group when he stumbled to the ground.
It appeared he died within minutes, according to documents.
The medical examiner ruled the cause of death was exertional heat stroke.
His core body temperature when he was declared dead at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington was, reportedly, 108 degrees.
FOR THE FAMILY, QUESTIONS REMAIN
These family members claim they haven’t been told all the details of what happened that day. They admit they have not requested that information from state police.
“I’m angry. I feel that we haven’t had closure. That we don’t know what happened that day,” said Ginny Woolf, Kyle’s mother.
In a joint statement, Vermont Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn, Vermont State Police Director Colonel Matthew Birmingham and Vermont Troopers’ Association President, Sgt. Michael O’Neil said:
“The death of Trooper Kyle Young was an extremely tragic event for all Vermont State Police members, their families, and the Vermont community. We grieve with Kyle’s family and will continue to provide them support now and in the future.”
In the fourteen months since his death, Ginny Woolf remains upset. There were no cooling devices on site and no ambulance on standby on the day of Kyle’s tryout.
“I’ve actually researched heat exertion to no end. It’s cool first, transport second. You can’t cool them down when they have nothing there to cool him down with. You can’t transport if there’s not an ambulance there,” she said. “Why? That’s my biggest question. Why weren’t those things in place?”
DEATH SPARKS CHANGE
Vermont State Police has changed its policies as a result of Kyle’s death.
This week, VSP held its first tactical services tryout since his death last September. It was held at Westminster Field Station.
State police spokesperson Scott Waterman tells Local 22/Local 44 news that troopers are now required to be trained about exertional heat stroke. They watch an instructional video featuring local heat stroke experts.
State police memos show physical testing sites should now have an athletic trainer on site, a “wet bulb globe temperature” which is used to monitor heat during exercise and a tub full of ice water.
Fitness test administrators are also required to follow a hydration schedule and notify local EMS of the event.
These are just a few examples of new heat stroke-related policies.
The recommendations were the result of a Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or VOSHA, investigation.
Ginny Woolf is waiting for confirmation from VOSHA that the changes have been implemented.
“I want those things to be changed. And I’m not going to stop until I know they are,” she said.
VOSHA spokesperson Dirk Anderson tells us a VOSHA program manager is training members of the Department of Public Safety on a finalized policy for the department’s high physical activity events.
Anderson says there has been little disagreement between VOSHA and DPS on policies moving forward.
He expects the finalized plan could be completed within the next couple weeks.
REMEMBERING A HERO
For Young’s family, he will always be a hero.
Kyle Young is a hero to many others, too. Strangers send the family gifts from all over the country.
“I’ve got a lot of things, like memorials, things people have sent, which has been wonderful,” said Ginny Woolf, who has memorials to her son tucked away in nearly every corner of her home.
She and Kyle’s siblings say they remain connected to the man who brought them so much joy.
“You talk to him a lot?” asked Local 22/Local 44 News reporter Staci DaSilva.
“Oh yea, I talk to Kyle all the time, every day,” said his mother, outside a plaque with his name on it outside Kyle’s high school alma mater. “I don’t really like seeing his name up there, but it’s an honor that he’s being remembered.”