Escondido’s Dang Remains in Critical but Stable Condition


The condition of Vu Dang, Escondido High football player, was upgraded Saturday morning to critical but stable.

Dang, 17, suffered hemorrhaging on the right side of his brain after being tackled in Escondido’s 14-0 victory over San Marcos on Friday, a hospital representative said.

Dang, a senior, underwent about two hours of surgery at 10:45 p.m. Friday at Palomar Medical Center. He remains comatose and on a respirator.


Dang was injured while returning a punt 15 yards along the Escondido sideline with about 10 minutes left in the game. He was tackled simultaneously by three defenders, two from the side and one from front.

“He was stuck,” Escondido Coach Bruce Ward said. “It’s exactly how you teach your punt team to tackle the ball. It stopped him in his tracks. It was good tackling.”

Downed at the Escondido 30-yard-line, Dang was conscious and moving, said Dr. Regis Fallon, Escondido’s team physician.

“In a very, very brief time there was rapid progressive deterioration of his neurological status to the point where he was unresponsive (to voice and pain stimuli),” Fallon said. “He was unconscious and could not be aroused.”

Two minutes after the play, the call went out for Escondido Fire Dept. paramedics, which arrived 15 minutes later, at 9:31. Ten minutes later, Dang was at Palomar Medical Center.

Fallon, who along with San Marcos athletic trainer Curt Caspersen tended to Dang, said Dang’s survival was a tribute to the trauma center at Palomar.

“This was a very serious situation on the field,” Fallon said. “He could have died. He’s alive because of the good care he got. If he hadn’t gotten that care, he would have died.

“It’s the kind of thing you rarely see in high school football.”

Dang, a 5-foot-7, 160-pound wide receiver, maintains a 3.6 grade-point average and hopes to to be admitted to the Air Force Academy.

The oldest of three children, he is the son of Xe and Cuc Dang. The family, sponsored by a Lutheran church, moved here 12 years ago from Vietnam after a stay in a refugee camp near Thailand.

“He’s just a joy to see on campus,” Ward said. “He’s a happy guy, very encouraging.”

About 30 of Dang’s friends and teammates stayed until 3 a.m. Saturday morning, and the vigil continued throughout Saturday afternoon in the hospital’s waiting room. Among those was Joy Lothspeich, whose son, Rick, was one of Dang’s best friends.

“He’s young, healthy and strong,” Joy Lothspeich said, “a real fighter.”