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Students mourn loss of classmate who drowned

Students at Finley Middle School spent the last day of class Wednesday mourning one of their own.

Extra counselors were on hand to help the students deal with the death of eighth-grader David Newton, who drowned Tuesday afternoon at Two Rivers Park in Finley.

David, 14, recently had moved to the area from Colorado. He started taking classes at the middle school in February.

"He had a lot of friends and got along well with other kids," said Principal Michael Harrington. "He was liked by staff. He was an overall good kid."

Wednesday was a half-day in the Finley district. Harrington said students gathered in their small advisory groups in the morning and were told of David's death.

Students who were too upset to stay in school were allowed to go home. Even though the district now is on summer break, counselors will be available to talk to kids who need extra help, officials said.

David, who would have turned 15 in July, reportedly went under after his first jump into the river. It is believed that the cold water and swift currents were factors in the drowning. The boy wasn't wearing a life jacket.

David isn't the only Finley teen to have died in recent years.

Tyler Bies, 19, a 2008 graduate of River View High in Finley, was struck by a freight train in December. And Joshua Austin, 17, another River View High student, was hit and killed by a passenger train in 2007.

District officials said they -- and David's family -- want students to be aware of the risks of swimming in the river.

"Be safe. The river is dangerous. The railroad tracks are dangerous. We try to get across to our kids the dangers that are out there," Harrington said.

Officials said that even though David was at Finley Middle School for only a short time, he made a lasting impression.

"It's a terrible loss to the family and it's a terrible loss to us as a district," said Superintendent Suzanne Feeney.

Funeral arrangements haven't yet been announced.

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