Details emerge in teen fatality

Police: Some facts stir more questions

Police have released details about the weekend accident in Columbus that claimed the life of a Columbus East sophomore.

Abbott Garn, 15, of Columbus, was struck and fatally injured after getting out of a vehicle Saturday night, according to the Columbus Police Department accident report.

After talking to witnesses, police said they believe the fatality was accidental.

The police report said the driver of the vehicle had pulled over on Franklin Street north of 25th Street at 9:30 p.m. so all three occupants of the sport-utility vehicle could change clothes.

The driver, Jonah Wichman, 16, of Columbus, said he then started to pull away and accidentally struck Garn, who was either getting in or out of the vehicle when the accident happened, the accident report said.

The police department’s investigation is continuing into circumstances surrounding Garn’s death, including awaiting the results of toxicology tests on Garn and Wichman. It is routine for the driver and any victim in a fatal accident to be tested for evidence of alcohol or drugs.

An additional police report that is being completed by accident investigators — which will have more details on the accident — has not yet been released, police said.

But based on interviews police conducted with the driver; another passenger in the vehicle, Nash Murphy; and other witnesses, some degree of horseplay was involved in the accident, said Columbus Police Lt. Matt Harris, department’s spokesman.

Wichman, Murphy and Garn were all sophomores at Columbus East, teammates on the high school football team and honor roll students during the fall semester.

After receiving medical attention at the scene, Garn was transported by helicopter to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, where he died at 11:53 p.m., Columbus police said.

The Marion County Coroner’s Office said it would not issue a cause of death for Garn until receiving results of the toxicology tests, which could take six to eight weeks. The accident report lists Garn’s most severe injuries as internal, located throughout his entire body.

Adam and Jackie Garn, the teen’s parents, speaking through a family friend, Brandon Andress, said Monday that they wanted to make clear they hold no animosity over the accident toward the friends who were with their son. The couple met with Wichman and Murphy on Sunday at their home.

“The boys were completely crushed and full of emotion and guilt over the entire thing and Adam and Jackie (Garn) just held them,” Andress said, after which the parents stated: “There is no need to be sorry. Abbott loved you … and we love you.”

Garn’s parents also said they were deeply appreciative to people who were nearby when the accident occurred and how they helped at the scene, Andress said.

About 400 student and staff members gathered Monday morning at Columbus East High School to mourn the loss of Garn. Counselors have been available to East students and staff throughout the week, school officials said.

The number of students who attended Monday’s gathering at East to remember Garn was particularly comforting to the family, Andress said.

Andress, who does a Christian podcast and is a former leader at The Living Room church in Columbus, and Scott Hundley, director of counseling and community at the Community Church of Columbus, will officiate during Garn’s funeral service Saturday. Visitation and services are both scheduled at Westside Community Church, where the sanctuary has a seating capacity of about 450.

Services for Abbott Garn

Visitation for Abbott Garn will be 3 to 8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m until time of service on Saturday at Westside Community Church.

The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the church.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Abbott Forrester Garn Scholarship Fund through Barkes, Weaver & Glick Funeral Home.

To share online condolences and memories, visit barkesweaverglick.com.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.