By Cindy Boren, washingtonpost.com
Keion Carpenter, a safety who played for the Atlanta Falcons and Buffalo Bills, died early Thursday, a day after he struck his head in what a family member said was a “freak accident” while on a vacation.
Carpenter, 39, had been in a coma in a Miami hospital and erroneous reports of his death circulated Wednesday. Later in the day, the family issued a statement asking for “prayers and privacy.” Jamila Smith, a cousin of Carpenter’s from Baltimore, told the Baltimore Sun that Carpenter had an accident while playing with his son.
“They were running to the car when [Carpenter] slipped, fell, hit his head and slipped into a coma. It was just a freak accident,” she said. “He was always healthy; he went to the doctor, ate well and worked out.”
On Thursday morning, his family issued a statement that said: “It is with regret that we as a family announce that at 6:47 a.m. Keion Eric Carpenter was pronounced dead at Jackson South Community Hospital in Miami, Fla.”
He is survived by his wife, Tonia, and four children.
An undrafted free agent who played at Virginia Tech, Carpenter played in the NFL for six seasons spanning 1999-2005. He had 206 tackles and 14 interceptions in 83 career games.
Remembering a wonderful man
Offering our condolences to the family, friends & teammates of Keion Carpenter, who left us way too soon. pic.twitter.com/w1zHSmT9zs
— VT Football (@VT_Football) December 29, 2016
Former Bills S Keion Carpenter has died at 39.
We’re sad to learn of his passing + send our thoughts to his family. https://t.co/GsdAdrugQy pic.twitter.com/XmxMcIwaFV
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) December 29, 2016
After he retired, he established the Carpenter House, a nonprofit organization to help underprivileged families find homes, in his native city of Baltimore. Frank Beamer, his coach at Virginia Tech, remembered his tenacity on the field and his generosity off it Thursday.
“Keion was one of the rocks around which we built our program at Virginia Tech in the 1990s. He was a tenacious punt blocker and a relentless player on defense,” Beamer said in a statement. “More importantly, he had a heart of gold. His work with the Carpenter House and other charitable organizations to help those in need truly embodied the Virginia Tech Spirit.”