On 6th March 2014 a full military funeral was given for Lance Corporal Kevon Carter, in Trinidad and Tobago. His casket was carried in a procession of Defence Force personnel where his body was laid to rest in the military cemetery.
Lance Corporal Carter didn’t die of wounds inflicted in battle he died in training wearing the kit of the nation’s most successful football team.
Defence Force F.C. is a team made up of Trinidad and Tobago’s protective forces, officers, soldiers and sailors from the Army and Coast Guard. The club was formed in 1974, twelve years after independence from Great Britain.
Trinidad and Tobago is an island country off the northern edge of South America, lying just off the coast of north-eastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles, and is one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the Caribbean.
On 28th of February 2014, and it was another lovely day on this island paradise. The weather was warm for this time of year, with temperatures hovering around 30° C during the hottest part of the day, but with gentle breezes blowing in off the sea.
Lance Corporal Kevon Carter, a powerfully built and speedy winger, and his Defence Force F.C. teammates had an early morning football training session, which started at 8.30am to avoid the worst of the day’s heat.
Kevon and the other players have only just returned to full training after coming off a month-and-a-half-long self-imposed suspension from all sporting activities, handed down by the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force.
Details about the intensity of the training session itself are scare, but we can surmise that the players will have been put through their paces in an effort to get them match fit following their month-and-a-half layoff.
After the session Carter walked off the pitch complaining of chest pains. This wasn’t the first time. He had a history of it. The military man had tests, but they revealed neither heart abnormalities nor serious medical issues.
Having suffered these episodes before Carter usually just left the field for a rest if it happened in training or was substituted if he felt unwell during a match. This time however he started vomiting and showed signs of having a fever.
It could have just been heat exhaustion and over-exertion, football players often vomit after intensive training sessions but the Defence Force’s assistant coach Marvin Gordon knew something more was wrong.
he came off, he [sat] down to drink some water but he started to feel the pain more and more. He was asking for painkillers and I think he [got] a painkiller and he [took]it. A little while after he started to vomit. When we saw that, we immediately called a doctor.
Lance Corporal Carter was taken to the Coast Guard Medical Inspection Room to be seen by the doctor. The Defence Force Medical Officer saw him immediately and managed to stabilise him before sending him in an ambulance to the St James Hospital for urgent admission and treatment.
Unfortunately on the way to the hospital Kevon Carter had a heart attack, tragically dying in the ambulance en route, despite all attempts to revive him by the Defence Force and Hospital medical personnel travelling with him.
He was 30 years old.
Kevon was regarded as one of the most promising local-based players in his youth, finishing the sixth highest goal scorer in the 2004 Pro League competition at 20 years old.
In 2010, he suffered a major setback when he was on the receiving end of a heavy challenge which left him with a broken right leg in a First Citizens Cup match against St Ann’s Rangers. He fought his way back from a career threatening injury and recovered to finish third top scorer in the 2012/2013 TT Pro League competition.
He scored 41 times for Defence Force F.C. during his career.
The military midfielder also earned 31 caps with the Trinidad and Tobago national team and scored five goals. He made his Trinidad and Tobago senior debut in March 2004 against Guyana, and scored his first international goal against Grenada in April 2008.
Kevon Carter was the second Trinidad & Tobago national player to die of heart complications in the space of a couple of months. In December, 2013, 22-year-old former youth and senior national team defender Akeem Adams died while in a coma brought on by a massive heart attack and a subsequent stroke at a clinic in Budapest, Hungary. He played for Hungarian club Ferencváros.
Just over a week before Akeem Adams’ death, Kevon Carter’s Defence Force F.C. teammate, 34-year-old Lance Corporal Rawle Fletcher, was shot and killed outside a bar in Couva in a drive by shooting.
In less than three months Trinidad and Tobago had lost three of its most promising footballers.
TT Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene said ‘I can’t believe this has happened. He [Kevon Carter] is like one of our family, we know him personally here at the office of the league. We are deeply… deeply saddened. He was such a polite and humble individual every time I interacted with him. Trinidad football has lost another of its talented, progressive and accomplished sons.’
Carter and Adams deaths were a wake up call for the League and they are working to ‘aggressively’ take the initiative to protect players’ health and wellbeing.
As a player and soldier Lance Corporal Carter gave his heart for club and country and his legacy is to help stop this from happening again in this island paradise.