Drowning claims life of VCC student

by Tom Coombe -

The Vermilion Ironmen will be playing with heavy hearts Saturday in Fergus Falls, at the end of a tragic week that began with the death of sophomore defensive lineman Sean Giles Jr.
Giles, 18, drowned Monday while swimming in Miners Lake at the public access/boat landing.
According to the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department, Giles had been swimming with friends when he disappeared under the water at approximately 3:50 p.m.
Rescue efforts were unsuccessful and he was later pronounced dead at Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital.
His death jarred the Vermilion football team and the campus community, where the second-year player from Detroit was remembered for both his work ethic and gregarious personality.
“He had a contagious smile that put everyone in a good mood,” remembered Justin Kosik, Vermilion’s head coach. “Sean was a hard worker that never complained about anything we asked him to do.”
Giles joined the Vermilion football team in 2017 and was part of a small group of sophomores to return after the program changed leadership with Kosik stepping in as head coach.
Rather than return home over the summer, Giles stayed in Ely and held jobs at both Rockwood and Front Porch Coffee and Tea.
Doug Scheibe, owner at Front Porch Coffee and Tea, said he’ll have fond memories of a young man “who seemed older than his years, much more mature than his 18 years.”
“He had a very contagious smile and he smiled a lot,” said Scheibe. “I know the customers and staff all liked him. They remarked what a courteous kid he was and he was very customer service oriented. He’ll be missed by a lot of people.”
Shawn Bina, provost at Vermilion, said the incident “has had a dramatic impact on a large population on our campus, not only because he was a student athlete,but as a second-year student who always had a smile on his face - he touched a lot of people.”
Giles started at defensive end last Saturday for the Ironmen and made a pair of tackles in a season-opening defeat to North Dakota State College of Science.
The Minnesota Community Athletic Conference announced Wednesday that it was naming Giles its player of the week in his memory, and the Ironmen will honor their teammate on several fronts.
“This weekend, for our first snap on defense, we will take the field with only 10 men, and leave his position of defensive end unmanned to honor his memory,” said Kosik.
Giles’ jersey number 40 will also be placed on the left side of each VCC player’s helmet for the remainder of the year, while Kosik indicated that “after this season, we will be having the team vote on an individual captain to wear the number 40.”
The incident occurred Monday near the boat landing at Miners Lake, where Giles and others had gone swimming.
Authorities were called after Giles disappeared under the water. The St. Louis County Rescue Square responded and found him submerged in the water 20 minutes later.
Also responding were the Ely Fire Department, Ely Ambulance, Minnesota DNR, Ely First Responders and Morse-Fall Lake First Responders,
According to the news release, Giles was pulled to shore and lifesaving measures were started. He was subsequently taken to the Ely hospital as lifesaving efforts continued, but he was declared dead.
At VCC, the school put its crisis plan into affect in the hours after the incident and school officials met with football team members and those who were on hand when the incident occurred. Counseling staff have since met with students and others impacted by the tragedy.
“We do feel we have plenty of support for the students,” said Bina. “(Counselors) Cindy Bina and Melissa Wilson have been doing group and individual counseling ever since.”
Vermilion will hold a memorial gathering at 3 p.m. Monday on campus outside the school’s theater.
“It will be chance for everybody to gather and share memories of Sean,” said Bina.“Sean was a huge part of our team and will be sorely missed; however, his impact on this team and coaching staff will carry on forever,” said Kosik.
Funeral services for Giles are pending.