Local News

Clinton school grapples with loss of two elementary students

Posted November 30, 2011

— The Clinton community of Sampson County was reeling Wednesday from the deaths of two elementary school students in the past week.

Kolin Robbins, 7, died Tuesday after being hit by a car near his home, just days after an 8-year-old classmate, Ethan Bartley, was killed by an accidental gunshot.

Both boys attended Butler Avenue School. Kolin was in the second grade; Ethan was a third-grader.

"I think we are all just almost in a fog," said Karen Randleman, one of Ethan's teachers.

Taleb Thompson was the boy's best friend.

"We always played basketball and always had lunch together," Taleb said. "He felt like a brother to me."

Last Wednesday was the last time Taleb saw his friend, who loved games and "America's Funniest Home Videos," before students were dismissed for Thanksgiving break.

On Friday, Ethan and two 12-year-olds decided to go squirrel hunting at a home outside Elizabethtown in Bladen County while the adults in the house were out running errands. One of the older children dropped the .22-caliber rifle they had found in an outbuilding.

Kolin Robbins Clinton elementary school reels from students' deaths

It fired, striking Ethan in the side, investigators said.

He was taken to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where he died the same day.

Teacher Crystal Wells and the rest of the school wore green ribbons Monday, the day of Ethan's funeral, to remember him.

"I guess you think, as a teacher, you're never going to have to deal with something like that," Wells said. "Especially a third grade student – so young."

While Butler Avenue School Principal Vanessa Brown was at the funeral mourning the child, she was informed that Kolin had been hit by a car.

"As an administrator, this has been a hard week," Brown said.

Kolin was playing in some leaves at the edge of the street, near his home on Park Avenue. He didn't see the car coming his way and stepped right into its path, investigators said.

Kolin died Tuesday at WakeMed in Raleigh. Charges will not be filed against the driver, Clinton police said, calling the boy's death a "tragic accident."

"We talked about (on Monday), when we talked about Ethan, you just never know what might happen," said Kolin's teacher, Joy Thornton. "You want to be kind and nice to people, and then for this to happen."

Brown said the school community has come together, exchanging lots of hugs, bringing in counselors and helping grieving students cope by writing letters and cards to the classmates they lost. Four things keep Brown going through the tragedy, she said – "love of children, good teachers, good staff, good people."


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  • smilenc Dec 1, 2011

    I am so sorry for your lost. I pray that god puts his arms around this famlies in this time of hurt. This news really takes my breath away thinking about this two children fills my eyes with tears.

  • fishon Dec 1, 2011

    Very said. Why in the world would anyone keep a gun in the house when there are children there? There is NO reason to have a gun in the house where there are children. It cannot be justified...wigi

    We grew up with guns and my children and their children all grew up with guns in the house. No "accidents".

    And growing up, even at 12 yrs old we knew better than to take or handle a gun without supervision.

  • courtneyc07 Dec 1, 2011

    Please get your facts straight before reporting them, Ethan was not hunting with these boys nor was he unsupervised. Had these boys been hunting possibly, were they unsupervised yes. Ethan stepfather was outside next door. To the person commenting below Ethan was outside never inside the home, this gun was in a shed not in a house.

  • dimon Dec 1, 2011

    Such a tragic for both families. My prayers are with them both.

  • dogluv3r Dec 1, 2011

    DAR-Patriot I will say a prayer for these families, and also for yours as we approach this holiday season. I cannot begin to comprehend what you have gone through.

  • DAR-Patriot Dec 1, 2011

    I sympathize and empathize with both families and their extended circle of friends. Accidents happen. Don't look for anything or anyone to blame. I don't care how careful you are in trying to protect your children accidents happen. Our children (5) grew up with guns in the house. They were taught from an early age how they worked and to respect and appreciate their proper use, power, and danger.

    You never know what can happen. Our youngest son (age 6) fell, broke his neck, and died right in our front yard. Accidents happen and you live through them with God's grace. You go on with life and you can be happy but you are never the same.

  • mlong Dec 1, 2011

    My heart goes out to these Families of these 2 little boys. Also to the school. It seems we always hear of things like this happening around Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays. These were 2 awful Freak Accidents. All our prayers are with these families, the school and thier friends. I know it is so hard for children so young to understand this. God Bless you all.

  • dldobbins Dec 1, 2011

    Sounds like 2 freak accidents to me. So sad. I feel for the families of these children. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

  • leecountymama Dec 1, 2011

    My heart aches for everyone involved. You can "what if" forever. Accidents happen. Praying for both families.

  • 2gurlz2boyzMom Dec 1, 2011

    lock your gun!

    it's so sad that the lives of two young kids were taken. i pray for their families. i couldn't even imagine losing one of my five.