Burbank grieves after teenage boy dies in snowboarding mishap

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 27, 2014 

"Rest in peace" and "We'll miss your face" were some of the messages left Monday on two message boards at Columbia Middle School in Burbank.

Students, teachers and members of the small community are grieving the loss of Hunter Conner, 14, who died Saturday.

Hunter was injured in a snowboarding accident at Ski Bluewood near Dayton and was taken to Columbia County Hospital, where he died.

No details are available about how Hunter was injured. Because he died at the hospital, the coroner's office is not handling his case, said Rea Culwell, Columbia County prosecuting attorney/coroner, in an email to the Herald.

Notes and drawings were left Monday on Hunter's locker and students made chalk drawings outside on the basketball court.

"We all felt a bitter anguish saying goodbye to Hunter," said Lou Gates, superintendent of Columbia School District in Burbank.

Middle school Principal Mike Taylor called Hunter "adventurous" and said he was well liked at school and in the community.

"His loss will greatly impact our lives," Taylor said.

Gates and Taylor said school counselors helped students cope with their grief Monday. Representatives from three churches also volunteered their time and experience to help counsel Hunter's classmates.

The Columbia High School Associated Student Body asked students to wear blue or Seahawks colors Monday in Hunter's honor.

Taylor said the school has declared the rest of the week Hunter Spirit Week, and each day the students and teachers will wear different attire representing something he liked.

Today is sports day, another day is designated for the school colors -- purple and gold -- another for camouflage since "he liked hunting," Taylor said. Friday will be a Seahawks theme.

Gates praised his staff, saying they did a marvelous job Monday working with the students.

He also praised the students "who gave Hunter a very heartfelt and respectable goodbye."

"Today was a hard one for everyone," said Taylor on Monday afternoon. "The small community of Burbank is an amazing place. When tragedy happens, the community rallies around."

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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