Teen drowning victims remembered by classmates

February 22, 2011 11:51:08 AM PST
Grief counselors were at a Walnut Creek high school Tuesday following the drowning deaths of two students over the weekend.

It was the first day of school after the tragic accident. The two boys died Saturday trying to raft down a rain-swollen Walnut Creek. 17-year-old Gavin Powell was supposed to be at school Tuesday playing in the school's jazz band as part of the "Health Fair." The music is gone and so is the legendary sense of humor of 16-year-old Matthew Miller who is also gone forever.

Some students at the school are not sure how to deal with all this. There are more than 1,400 students at the school and on Tuesday, not one could be found one who didn't have a story about either Powell or Miller. Senior Kraig Bellows knew them both, Miller more than Powell.

"He was a really good artist and all of his concepts and art were really cool," he said. "I had TA for his art period so I always saw him working. He was very talented."

Michael Cain, who graduated last year, took math with Powell.

"I would just ask a quick question, or whatever, and he wouldn't be bothered that I was asking him anything or anything like that," he recalled.

Both of the young men had a similar reaction to the passing of their friends.

"Well just like, disbelief," Bellows said. "Like, what? Excuse me? The two kids have died? I didn't quite understand it at first."

"We were coming down from Tahoe. We were just blown away. We didn't know what to do," Cain said. "We just kind of sat around, like in silence. We didn't really know what to say or anything."

School Principal Matt Campbell says shock is the common denominator at the high school. That is why school counselors were joined Tuesday by counselors from other district high schools to offer one-on-one sessions to students. The library is now the grief center, so students can counsel students.

"What we know about students at this age, they are all feeling it, so they like to hang out in groups and process in groups, so the library's a really good place," Campbell told ABC7. "It's a safe place for them to go. It's a big place for them to go and just process together."

The Health Fair proceeded as planned. School officials said they considered cancelling it, but thought what could be a more important topic for students that day than health and how to get healthy again?

A candlelight vigil is planned for Wednesday evening at the Shell Ridge Open Space in Walnut Creek. ABC7 is told that was a place the boys used to go to plot their adventures.

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