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Unread 12-10-2010, 08:57 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Student sets fire to himself at school :(

This was horrible. The audios of the 911 calls were chilling.

We were just at that school, in the same parking lot, less than a week ago for an event there. I know a staff member there, and some students. What a terrible experience for them.

That's a horrendous way to die. My heart goes out to the family. I can't imagine their anguish.

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The Post and Courier logo
Student set himself ablaze, police say, burns prove fatal
By David MacDougall, Andy Paras

People in the tightknit Academic Magnet High School-School of the Arts community were pulling together Thursday, coping with the trauma of a student who was engulfed in flames at the front entrance, a horrific spectacle witnessed by dozens.

Now they must deal with learning that the student has died, and that he set himself on fire in an apparent suicide.

Aaron Williams, 16, was pronounced dead at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta at 3:19 p.m. Thursday, Charleston County Deputy Coroner Brittney Martin said.

North Charleston police said earlier in the day that the student had poured an accelerant on his clothing and ignited the fire himself. The announcement confirmed what witnesses already knew and many people suspected.

Charleston County authorities released a 911 recording of the incident, which revealed that students used a fire extinguisher to douse their burning classmate as teachers then wrapped him with a blanket until authorities arrived.

School receptionist Dora Hartsell called 911 about 8:20 a.m. Wednesday and told a dispatcher that a student was on fire in front of the administration building. She then calmly gave the address of the North Charleston school.

"Did you say a child on fire," the dispatcher asked Hartsell.

Asked how the fire happened, Hartsell told the dispatcher she did not know. Hartsell initially thought the student was a female.

"A teacher has already gone outside and covered her with a blanket and students have gone out there with an extinguisher," Hartsell said. The call ends when police arrived.

Williams was rushed to Medical University Hospital and then flown to the burn unit in Augusta.

A crisis team of about 30 counselors was on the campus Wednesday and Thursday, said Lisa Herring, the district's executive director of student support services. On Thursday, the counselors went through both schools, going from class to class, speaking to all the students and teachers, encouraging them to talk about what happened and to ask for help if needed.

"Overall, they are doing very well," Herring said. Somewhere between 50 and 100 students requested counseling. School counselors were prepared to recommend additional therapy for those students who might need it, she said.

The crisis team will be on campus today also, Herring said. "And into next week if needed."

Counselors were to meet with parents at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. today, according to a note sent home to parents.

Williams was described by many as a friendly kid who was affectionately known as "Boombox" or "The Boombox Guy" because he carried a boombox with him wherever he went. His Facebook profile picture was a drawing of a boombox with the saying, "A boombox can change the world."

Many students wore white to school Thursday as the result of a late-night campaign via texting and Facebook. Many more are expected to wear red today in support of Williams.

After news of Williams' death reached school officials, the district released the following statement from Superintendent Nancy McGinley.

"Losing a child is an unspeakable tragedy. On behalf of the entire Charleston County School District, I offer my deepest condolences to the Williams family. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers," McGinley wrote. "We pledge our full and continued support for the Academic Magnet and School of the Arts communities, and are here to provide them with whatever assistance they need during this incredibly difficult time."
Student set himself ablaze, police say, burns prove fatal | The Post and Courier, Charleston SC - News, Sports, Entertainment
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Unread 12-10-2010, 09:03 AM   #2 (permalink)
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wow, how very very SAD....
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Unread 12-10-2010, 09:03 AM   #3 (permalink)
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So horrific! And a painful way to die....
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Unread 12-10-2010, 09:11 AM   #4 (permalink)
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There had to be witnesses there that had to seen that and I wonder why someone didn't take him down immediately? My guess is the kids stood there gawking, some snickering and laughing. Some prolly wanted to watch him on fire just for shits and giggles. Others were prolly afraid to be on fire themselves should they tried to stop him, but that doesn't mean it excuses them from stopping him from trying to kill himself.

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Unread 12-10-2010, 09:19 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by yizuman View Post
There had to be witnesses there that had to seen that and I wonder why someone didn't take him down immediately? My guess is the kids stood there gawking, some snickering and laughing. Some prolly wanted to watch him on fire just for shits and giggles. Others were prolly afraid to be on fire themselves should they tried to stop him, but that doesn't mean it excuses them from stopping him from trying to kill himself.

Yiz
It's not everyday people set themselves on fire....and I'm sure these "kids" had no iota of what to do! I imagine a lot of screaming and panic going on....Even some adults would be at a loss as of what to do! Plus, whatever accelerant he used, the fire spread quickly.
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Unread 12-10-2010, 09:26 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by yizuman View Post
There had to be witnesses there that had to seen that and I wonder why someone didn't take him down immediately? My guess is the kids stood there gawking, some snickering and laughing. Some prolly wanted to watch him on fire just for shits and giggles. Others were prolly afraid to be on fire themselves should they tried to stop him, but that doesn't mean it excuses them from stopping him from trying to kill himself.

Yiz
It was during school time, so most witnesses saw what happened from the windows while they were inside the buildings.

Some students took action:

"...students used a fire extinguisher to douse their burning classmate...."

I've been to that campus. It's huge, laid out more like a college campus.

Also, some of the 911 calls were from students.

On TV, they interviewed some of the students. They were all upset about what happened.
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Unread 12-10-2010, 09:27 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by rockin'robin View Post
It's not everyday people set themselves on fire....and I'm sure these "kids" had no iota of what to do! I imagine a lot of screaming and panic going on....Even some adults would be at a loss as of what to do! Plus, whatever accelerant he used, the fire spread quickly.
Yes. Also, he started running immediately.
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Unread 12-10-2010, 09:27 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Reba View Post
It was during school time, so most witnesses saw what happened from the windows while they were inside the buildings.

Some students took action:

"...students used a fire extinguisher to douse their burning classmate...."

I've been to that campus. It's huge, laid out more like a college campus.

Also, some of the 911 calls were from students.

On TV, they interviewed some of the students. They were all upset about what happened.
Ah ok, just wish they got to him much sooner.

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Unread 12-10-2010, 09:50 AM   #9 (permalink)
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One classmate actually saw Williams on fire and tried to save him. She's not looking forward to going to class Friday.

"(Friday) is going to be a bad day, a very bad day because I have him in all of my classes," said classmate Donaija Smith. "It's like you sit next to him and you're sitting next to an empty seat and to know that person will never come back to sit with you or laugh with you or talk to you."

Smith, a junior at Academic Magnet High School says the whole school has been shaken up by the death of Williams.

"Academic Magnet is one big family," Smith said. "When one hurts, we all hurt, when one grieves, we all grieve. You go through the day and let each other know that we're all here for each other."

Smith says Williams wasn't a popular guy, but he was well known.

"The unique thing about him is he walked around with a boom box like an 80's boom box and he'd have it on his shoulder and play like various types of music and blast it when we change classes and you'd just look at him like oh my god and laugh and smile," Smith said.
Students try to cope with tragic loss of classmate - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports
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Unread 12-10-2010, 09:54 AM   #10 (permalink)
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What a horrible, traumatizing experience. My heart goes out to students and staff, and the family of the deceased. Thank goodness the crisis response team is there.
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Unread 12-10-2010, 01:02 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reba View Post
This was horrible. The audios of the 911 calls were chilling.

We were just at that school, in the same parking lot, less than a week ago for an event there. I know a staff member there, and some students. What a terrible experience for them.

That's a horrendous way to die. My heart goes out to the family. I can't imagine their anguish.


Student set himself ablaze, police say, burns prove fatal | The Post and Courier, Charleston SC - News, Sports, Entertainment
I must say I'm with you on this one. It's a brutal way to die and I have no doubt that the witnesses will need counseling for quite a while after that. My heart goes out to their families and the dead student's family.
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Unread 12-10-2010, 01:10 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I must say I'm with you on this one. It's a brutal way to die and I have no doubt that the witnesses will need counseling for quite a while after that. My heart goes out to their families and the dead student's family.
It is pretty sad, but I'm sure there is a need for counseling across the board. Ach.
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Unread 12-10-2010, 04:27 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Jeez!
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Unread 12-10-2010, 06:13 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Well, that's sad.
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Unread 12-10-2010, 06:16 PM   #15 (permalink)
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that is sad grieve
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Unread 12-10-2010, 08:50 PM   #16 (permalink)
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How horrible! I am at loss for words.
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Unread 12-10-2010, 08:57 PM   #17 (permalink)
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That's sad. You would thing that Boombox would have exhibited some signs of depression. But then again not every person presents the signs and symptoms the same way. Maybe he was able to hide behind his boombox?
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Unread 12-11-2010, 12:10 AM   #18 (permalink)
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My older grandson told me today that some of the kids at his school knew Aaron. They said that he gave no indication of being depressed or upset.
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Unread 12-11-2010, 12:14 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by yizuman View Post
There had to be witnesses there that had to seen that and I wonder why someone didn't take him down immediately? My guess is the kids stood there gawking, some snickering and laughing. Some prolly wanted to watch him on fire just for shits and giggles. Others were prolly afraid to be on fire themselves should they tried to stop him, but that doesn't mean it excuses them from stopping him from trying to kill himself.

Yiz
I doubt you can do anything about it except stand and watch it in horror with great disbelief. I doubt this is something ANYBODY can help except a sick killer.
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Unread 12-11-2010, 12:15 AM   #20 (permalink)
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My grandson also told me that when he arrived at school this morning (Friday), several of his classmates were upset and crying. He found out that a student from his high school hanged himself last night! He didn't personally know the student but it was still upsetting.
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Unread 12-11-2010, 12:15 AM   #21 (permalink)
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awful story. made me wonder what made him do this. i don't see anywhere in the story that he was bullied. puzzling....
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Unread 12-11-2010, 12:16 AM   #22 (permalink)
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My grandson also told me that when he arrived at school this morning (Friday), several of his classmates were upset and crying. He found out that a student from his high school hanged himself last night! He didn't personally know the student but it was still upsetting.
ugh... what was the reason? do they know?
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Unread 12-11-2010, 12:21 AM   #23 (permalink)
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this nation needs to come together and address this issue publicly. this is an unacceptable behavior to deal with whatever they problem they're having.

bullying. cyberbullying. gay students. socially misfits. depression at unstable homes. etc. they need to learn how to cope with the "impossible" issue in a healthy way. The tv is broadcasting way too much more on what they did to commit suicide instead of what they could have done to cope with it.
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Unread 12-11-2010, 12:24 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Update:

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Family of Academic Magnet High School student releases statement on his death
By Adam Parker
Saturday, December 11, 2010

The father of the Academic Magnet High School student who set himself on fire near the school's front entrance this week said his son "was struck with a despair so dark that he could not see beyond it, in spite of the love, support and counseling he received."

...The Williams family created a fund at MUSC to help doctors-in-training. Checks, payable to The MUSC Foundation and earmarked for the Aaron Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund, can be mailed to 261 Calhoun St., Suite 306, MSC 182, Charleston, SC 29425.

Trace Williams appeared briefly before news media Friday to explain his son Aaron's death. Reading from a prepared statement, and citing a letter written by the 16-year-old before his death, Williams said the self-immolation was an attempt "to reach out to as many hearts as possible and to emphasize the importance of living lives of love and compassion."

He said his son's lifelong ambition was to be a doctor and help others.

"Even in the midst of despair, his thoughtful and compassionate nature came through," Williams said.

North Charleston police gave the note to the Williams family, according to the Rev. Rob Dewey of Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy. Dewey has spent time with the family during the past three days and was one of about 45 volunteers, counselors and school officials who converged Friday on Academic Magnet to assist students and faculty.

"It affects so many people," Dewey said.

The complete letter was not made available, but Williams said that his son "was suddenly confused and felt unable to help himself. He then expressed his concern for other kids who might be having feelings like he did, and he said he hoped they could be 'helped in a very confidential manner.' "

In an unrelated incident, a 17-year-old Fort Dorchester High School student took his life Thursday evening, police said. The student was found hanging in his bedroom closet, according to a police report.

Aaron's death shocked the community and prompted a quick response. The second death of a teenager in one week put school officials with Dorchester District 2 and Charleston County School District on high alert.

Mental health experts say teens are among the most vulnerable when it comes to thoughts of suicide, but that opportunities for counseling and intervention are available...

"If an outgoing child becomes withdrawn, or a withdrawn child becomes more hostile," these can be warning signs, she said.

Isolation or expressions of loneliness are other symptoms, along with obsessing about death or finding no joy in a previously enjoyed activity.

A good response is to listen in a non-judgmental way, "not to condemn those feelings but to respect who they are and what they are going through," Burnett said. "Everyone has the potential to be touched by this kind of tragedy."

Aaron Williams was born in 1994 in Fairfield, Calif., according to an obituary. His father is an officer in the Air Force. The family -- Trace and Beth Evelyn Tockey Williams, and their two daughters, Hannah and Hailey -- lives in Mount Pleasant.

Jason Sakran, communications specialist with the Charleston County School District, said he spent most of Friday at Academic Magnet where the atmosphere was somber. Some students played guitars, others consoled one another, he said. "They were trying to be as normal as possible."

Lisa Herring, the school district's director for student support services, coordinated crisis response efforts, Sakran said. Volunteers from the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina joined other clinical and health care professionals on campus, he said. School officials are encouraging a free expression of concerns among students and openness among teachers and staff, he said.

Pat Raynor, communications director for Dorchester District 2, said guidance counselors in the schools are trained to deal with "life issues" and are "already vigilant." But recent events could spark a renewed commitment to training and intervention, she said. "Counselors at Fort Dorchester High School were busy today."

School officials and PTA members have tried to raise awareness of teen crisis and appropriate responses through parent education programs, Raynor said. It's important for parents to stay alert and cooperate with district staff and teachers.

"They need to know the school is a resource for them," she said.

Schuyler Kropf contributed to the report.
Family of Academic Magnet High School student releases statement on his death | The Post and Courier, Charleston SC - News, Sports, Entertainment
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Unread 12-11-2010, 12:25 AM   #25 (permalink)
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ugh... what was the reason? do they know?
Don't know yet.
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Unread 12-11-2010, 12:52 AM   #26 (permalink)
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I think there needs to be more attention brought to the youth themselves on what the warning signs are of a classmate who is depressed and possibly thinking of harming themselves. These are the ones that are more likely to see these signs and pick up on them. Teens more readily confide in their closest friends about their lives rather than their parents. Perhaps an ad campaign on MTV and Teen-Nick to tell students to be aware of such behaviors in their friends and classmates as well as in themselves. If they feel like harming themselves then they should be provided with a number to call immediately to talk to a counselor over the phone or even text with them if the student wishes to be even more discreet if they feel like they need help. They need to know that there is no need to feel ashamed about reaching out for help either for their friends or for themselves.
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Unread 12-12-2010, 06:44 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Update:

Quote:
Authorities: Fort Dorchester High School student hanged self
Staff report
Originally published 02:45 p.m., December 10, 2010
Updated 02:49 p.m., December 10, 2010
How to get help

To find out where to get treatment information or find someone to talk to, contact Trident United Way's 211 Hotline.

Or log on to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's website at www.suicideprevention lifeline.org or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

A 17-year-old Fort Dorchester High School student died after hanging himself in his bedroom closet Thursday night, authorities said.

Police responded to the apartment complex at 8465 Patriot Blvd., at 8:24 p.m. and found the teen hanging in a closet in a back bedroom, according to an North Charleston Police incident report released Friday. The victim’s brother was also at the residence, police said.

EMS rushed him to a local hospital where he later died.

Dorchester County Coroner Chris Nisbet said the death has been ruled a suicide.

Authorities said they do not believe the teen’s death is connected to the death of Aaron Williams, a 16-year-old student at the Academic Magnet High School-School of Arts, who died after he set himself on fire in front of the school.
Authorities: Fort Dorchester High School student hanged self | The Post and Courier, Charleston SC - News, Sports, Entertainment
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Unread 12-12-2010, 06:29 PM   #28 (permalink)
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We need to educate youth about depression and suicide prevention. Everyone is so wrapped up in themselves they forget about their classmate who is lonely and hurting. Or classmates are being bullied to death and others just look on and do nothing to stop it. If people stepped outside of their bubble a bit, things like this might not happen as often. I hope those who have been deeply affected by these incidents get the help and counseling they need. I've been down that road, I know how it feels when life keeps kicking you around. You just have to get back up and fight and most importantly reach out and find someone that is willing to help you through whatever battle your facing.
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Unread 12-12-2010, 08:02 PM   #29 (permalink)
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It's so hard to know when a depressed person will attempt suicide, even for mental health professionals. Depression is so horrible. It lies and says that there is no hope. Apparently, this person was receiving mental health care. Unfortunately, depression is often a fatal mental illness.

My heart goes out to the family of this young man. I hope that some good comes out of this tragedy.
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Unread 12-12-2010, 08:29 PM   #30 (permalink)
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It's so hard to know when a depressed person will attempt suicide, even for mental health professionals. Depression is so horrible. It lies and says that there is no hope. Apparently, this person was receiving mental health care. Unfortunately, depression is often a fatal mental illness.

My heart goes out to the family of this young man. I hope that some good comes out of this tragedy.
Yes, I hope awareness can prevent further tragedies.
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