Clinton school grapples with loss of two elementary students
Posted November 30, 2011
Clinton, N.C. — 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.
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."