Three of the boys were on one side of the log, Mr. Fernandez said, and Joshua was on the other side with one other boy.
“When I heard about what they’re doing, I thought, ‘Whoa. What are they doing? Why are they doing that?’” Mr. Fernandez said.
He added, “These are kids — they aren’t really developed yet.”
His stepson has also carried the log. “He told me it’s really heavy,” Mr. Fernandez said.
Carlin Schledorn, a Sachem East graduate, told News 12 he did the same drill when he was on the team. “Unfortunately I can see this happening if it’s not done correctly,” he said of Joshua’s death, “because accidents happen.”
The elite Navy SEALS and other units of the United States military sometimes carry logs as part of their physical training, but they are often only half as heavy.
It’s “one of the toughest physical evolutions that anyone has to go through,” the director of fitness at the Naval Special Warfare Center says in a 2013 YouTube video. Each log is approximately 180-210 pounds, he says, and is carried by “boat crews of six or seven men” for “close to two hours, almost nonstop.”
It’s not a common activity, however, for high school athletes.
“There’s so much potential for things to go wrong that I would really want people to think twice before doing something like that,” Douglas Casa, a sports safety expert and the executive director of the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute, told The Associated Press.
Friends and neighbors have rallied to support the Mileto family, holding a vigil at the Farmingville Fire Department, and contributing to a GoFundMe page. As of Saturday afternoon it had raised more than $58,000.
Valerie Malfa, 16, a cheerleader at Sachem East, will be participating in a carwash on Sunday at the Applebee’s in Farmingville, N.Y. Proceeds will go to the Miletos.
“He was such a sweet person and I never heard anyone speak a bad word about him,” Valerie said, describing Joshua, a defensive back and wide receiver, as a “really talented” football player. “Every time I would talk to him, he was always so kind.”
Mr. Fernandez said Joshua was a “great kid” and a “really funny guy,” recounting how Joshua and his stepson had been inseparable for the last two years, even dyeing their hair the same color.
Mr. Fernandez said he was not aware that the training camp was using heavy logs during the workouts. “I just thought they were doing the typical football crackbacks,” he said.
“I’ve coached and everyone’s always trying to get an edge,” he said. “And you’re always looking for training techniques. But you also have to remember these are not professionals. These are kids.”
Tyler Simpson, 23, who grew up on Long Island and played football throughout much of his youth, said he had never been asked to carry a log at Center Moriches High School, in the town of Brookhaven, despite having a coach who had been in the military.
He did carry logs, however, during Marine Corps training in Quantico, Va., while simultaneously running short distances and doing shoulder presses along with a team of eight other men.
“It was exhausting,” said Mr. Simpson, who spent five years in the Marines and is now in the Reserves. “Some of these kids aren’t going to be able to hold the end of a 400-pound log.”
A spokeswoman for the school district deferred questions about the episode to the Sachem East Football Touchdown Club, which organized the training camp.
The club did not respond to a request for comment. It offered prayers and condolences in a statement on its website.
Kenneth E. Graham, the superintendent of Sachem Central School District, said in a statement that the district was “devastated by this horrific accident and words cannot express the grief we feel as a school community.”