Eastlake community suffers 3 recent deaths
February 20, 2012
By Caleb Heeringa
Fresh on the heels of the death of longtime school resource officer Stan Chapin, the Eastlake High School community was dealt another blow with the death of two recent graduates.
Timothy S. Williamson, 21, died from his injuries after jumping from a freeway overpass in Seattle on Feb. 4. Williamson was a 2009 Eastlake graduate and lifelong Sammamish resident.
Claire E. Thompson, 20, died after being shot by a stray bullet at a house party in Redmond Feb. 12. Thompson was a 2010 Eastlake graduate.
A 21-year-old Redmond man, Cornelius J. De Jong IV, faces a first-degree manslaughter charge in connection with Thompson’s death. De Jong, who police say appeared intoxicated at the time, allegedly removed the magazine from a handgun he owned and fired it at a wall to prove it was unloaded, according to charging documents.
A live bullet that remained in the chamber of the gun traveled through the wall and struck Thompson in the neck; she later died of her injuries.
Eastlake principal Brad Malloy said the recent deaths have made for trying times for the school. He said the school administration tries to let teachers know as soon as possible about a death that might affect students.
The school hopes students will hear the news from a teacher with whom they already have a relationship.
“We let teachers know because they’re the ones with the students in front of their eyes,” Malloy said. “They’re able to tell if a student is exhibiting behavior or showing signs that indicate they might need to talk to someone.”
For many students, the tragedies of the past few weeks may be the first time they’ve had to grapple with death and the grieving process.
“The furthest thing from their mind at that age is their own mortality,” Malloy said. “I remember being that age and we thought we were invincible. It’s a big wake-up call.”
Sylvia Williamson, the mother of Timothy Williamson, said her son was very close with Officer Chapin, who died in his sleep Jan. 31 after more than 11 years working at Eastlake and Inglewood Junior High School. She said Tim went on a ride along with Chapin as part of a project exploring a possible future career.
“He had a lot of respect for Officer Chapin – they had a great relationship,” she said.
Sylvia Williamson said she recalled Tim’s time at Inglewood, when he worked as a “runner” delivering messages from the front office to different classrooms.
Sylvia said the front office staff went out of their way to make Tim feel useful and needed – important for a teen that had trouble sitting still.
“They made him feel really important,” she recalled.
Syliva Williamson also said she was thankful for the memories of Tim that Tim’s friends have shared on Facebook and the Flintofts memorial guestbook.
Thompson had been attending Seattle Central Community College and planned to transfer to the University of Hawaii to study nursing.
“Throughout her junior high and high school years, Claire spent time with and mentored special education students which ignited her desire to pursue a nursing career,” her family wrote in an obituary. “Claire was a unique and wonderful young lady as evidenced by her beautiful smile, warm heart, and dedicated love for cats and nature.”
Thompson’s family could not be reached for additional comment.
Teens and grief
Eastlake’s counseling staff sent an email to teachers with various tips for parents and educators in helping teens through the grieving process and behaviors common in grieving students. According to counselors, it’s common for teens to exhibit forgetfulness, disorganization, an inability to concentrate, impatience and a lack of motivation as they deal with the often-conflicting emotions that come with grief.
Counselors also listed warning signs that a teen may need to see a counselor or mental health provider, including:
u Talking or writing about wanting to die.
u A drop in grades for an extended period.
u Persisting physical ailments, such as dizziness, headaches, lack of appetite and gastrointestinal problems.
u Depression that lasts more than two weeks.
u Guilt or a feeling of responsibility for the death of a loved one.
u Isolation and lack of communication with peers and adults.