Cinder block wall collapse kills Michigan ninth grader

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 27, 2011 12:48 PM

(Reuters) - The cinder block wall of a school locker room collapsed on a 14-year-old boy in western Michigan, killing the high school student, authorities said on Thursday.

Police in Williamston, about 10 miles east of Lansing in western Michigan, said the death of Gabriel Corbett on Wednesday had been ruled an accident, and the school district would determine why the wall collapsed.

Corbett was in the locker room on Wednesday afternoon when the wall fell on him, police said. An autopsy has been ordered to determine the cause of his death and the results have not been released, police said.

"Gabe was a friend to many and will be greatly missed," school district Superintendent Narda Murphy said Thursday in a statement. "Words cannot express our deep sadness. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Corbett family."

The statement posted on the Williamston Community Schools website said high school and middle school teachers gave students an opportunity in the first hour of class on Thursday to discuss their feelings about the accident.

"Our focus right now is the kids and the staff at the building today," Steve Cook, the district's finance director, said in an interview Thursday. "We obviously want to find the answers, but that is probably going to take several days if not several weeks."

Cook said the district has not yet interviewed eyewitnesses to the collapse of the cinder block wall at the building, which was built in 1990. District investigators had not inspected the scene of the collapse as of Thursday morning.

The district had no reason to believe there were structural deficiencies, but would conduct safety inspections on the rest of the area as a precaution, Cook said. The district has 1,900 students, including 650 in the high school.

"This is very devastating for our community and we are trying to deal with it as best we can," Cook said.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)