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Local teen drowns on family vacation: 17-year-old Columbus East senior wanted to join Air Force after graduation

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A Columbus East High School senior drowned early Friday while on a fall-break vacation in Florida with his family.

Garrett Mabrey, 17, was found at the bottom of a swimming pool in the Crystal Sands Condominiums in Siesta Key, Fla., at 3:25 a.m., according to the Sarasota County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department. Mabrey was pronounced dead at the scene.

Garrett didn’t have identification on him, but deputies used his cellphone to link to his Facebook page to confirm his identity, said Wendy Rose, sheriff’s department spokeswoman.

Detectives said the death appeared accidental, but an autopsy was to be performed to confirm the cause.

Garrett was the son of Gary and Wendy Mabrey of Columbus. A sister, Payton Mabrey, who attends IUPUC, also survives.

Garrett’s grandmother, Rose Harshfield, said the Mabrey family had visited Busch Gardens in Tampa the previous evening and returned to the condominium around 11 p.m.

Harshfield said Garrett was tweeting with friends as late as about 2 a.m.

“He was having a good time,” Harshfield said. “It just doesn’t seem possible that he’s gone.”

Harshfield added that her grandson enjoyed playing video games, was interested in politics and history and wanted to go into the U.S. Air Force upon graduation.

“He will definitely be missed,” said Mark Newell, principal of Columbus East High School. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family.”

Jeff Thomas, a second-year teacher at East who taught Garrett economics, described the student as smart, witty and well-liked by his classmates.

“He was a student that I genuinely liked,” Thomas said. “We talked after class and had running jokes. It’s hitting me pretty hard.”

Newell said grief counselors will be available to students and staff members when the fall semester resumes Oct. 22. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. is on fall break through next week.

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