The Columbus East High School community is struggling to accept the death of sophomore honor student who was killed in a weekend accident, with administrators arranging for counselors to help grieving classmates.
Abbott F. Garn, 15, was struck about 9:30 p.m. Saturday by a sport-utility vehicle in the 2500 block of Franklin Street and died about midnight at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, said Lt. Matt Harris, spokesman for the Columbus Police Department.
“It’s something that’s going to hit the school community very hard,” Columbus East Principal Mark Newell said.
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Police said Garn was traveling with acquaintances in a sport-utility vehicle when it stopped on Franklin Street near 25th Street. Garn got out of the vehicle for reasons Columbus police are working to determine, Harris said.
Garn, who made the honor roll and was a member of Olympian athletic teams, was struck as he was trying to re-enter the SUV, which had gone into motion about eight blocks west of Columbus North High School, Harris said.
The accident, which involved a 16-year-old driver who was not immediately identified, appears to be accidental, he said.
Garn was taken by LifeLine medical helicopter to the Indianapolis hospital, where he died from his injuries, Harris said.
Garn was a football and baseball player at Columbus East, football coach Bob Gaddis said.
The sophomore practiced and played with the varsity and junior varsity football squads as a wide receiver and defensive back during the fall season, the coach said.
“He was a great young man and a valued team member,” Gaddis said. “It’s a tragedy for his family and his teammates.”
Gaddis said he and others who knew Garn were shocked by his loss and were struggling to understand it.
“I feel horrible for the young man and his family,” Gaddis said.
Denise Kocur had been Garn’s art teacher since August and described him as a good, emerging artist and a quiet, respectful young man.
A tempera wash painting of a fish that Garn created is displayed in the Columbus East art gallery, she said.
“He was really doing very well in his 2-D (two-dimensional) art,” said Kocur, who planned to see that Garn’s artwork would be given to his family.
“This is kind of shock for me as well,” Kocur said.
Columbus East business teacher Bob Hartman had Garn in his accounting class, which he called a tight-knit group of 16 students.
“Great kid,” Hartman said of Garn. “He was a positive asset to the class and the school.”
In their discussions, Hartman said Garn talked about looking forward to the upcoming East baseball season.
Garn was in Scott Duncan’s English 10 honors class.
“He liked to be up and active. He was a funny kid. I always appreciate those types of students,” Duncan said.
“He was the type of person that you really latched onto,” he said. “Positive. Interesting. I really connected with him this year.”
Newell said he is encouraging students who need assistance dealing with the loss of their classmate to gather at 9:15 a.m. today in the high school’s auxiliary gym, where school guidance counselors will be available to assist.
Larry Perkinson, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s employee and student assistance coordinator, will also be available for any of Columbus East’s 1,550 students or school staff, Newell said.
Because of Monday’s 2-hour weather delay, the start of counseling time for students was also delayed two hours.
Students who need additional time to talk will be allowed to stay in the gym as long as necessary, said Newell, who was notifying Garn’s teachers at Columbus East on Sunday of the tragedy.
“We take care of each other,” Newell said.
Garn’s death is the first of a Columbus East student since two students died of suicide at the start of the 2015 school year, Newell said.
It was the second traffic fatality within a 24-hour period in Columbus. The prior day, William H. Everroad, 80, died from injuries in a Friday afternoon accident at U.S. 31 and Commerce Drive.