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Pasadena Academy and community come together to mourn


PASADENA After news spread that a Grade 9 Pasadena girl died in a serious car accident about a half-kilometre east of the Deer Lake airport Monday afternoon, students, teachers, guidance counsellors, parents, community members and clergy came together at Pasadena Academy to mourn together.

Julia Pennell, left, and Lauren Blake set up a memory wall at Pasadena Academy fTuesday for the Grade 9 girl killed in a car accident near the Deer Lake Airport Monday afternoon.

Holly O'Brien was a passenger in a car travelling west on the Trans-Canada Highway when it crossed over into the eastbound lane, back to the westbound lane and over a five-metre embankment before landing on its roof. The woman driver, Holly's mother, was taken to Western Memorial Regional Hospital with life-threatening injuries while the teenaged girl died at the scene. The roads were extremely slippery at the time.

Principal Robert Major said students approached him Monday, asking for a place to gather.

“We opened our doors at 7 o’clock (Monday night) … About 250 people were in our gym just mourning the loss of this young girl. People showed up with food. The community support was amazing,” said Major.

He said the school stayed open until about 9:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Major said emotions were high in the school Holly attended. He said education psychologists and guidance counsellors from across the district came to the school to help students, staff, parents and community members.

“The crisis plan was put in place … We have a regular timetable but not regular classes. Right now, students are in class and they can speak to guidance counsellors, education psychologists in groups or by themselves. They’re also here for teachers and for parents and community members who are grieving, to help them through the process,” said Major.

“Right now we’re just here supporting everyone.”

He said the extra support systems will be in place for a few days, at least.

As people enter the building, they are now met with a memory wall for the Grade 9 student. Poems, letters and pictures decorate the space.

“We have the student council who has set up a mourning wall to pay their respects,” said Major. “Every student, whoever wants to, can write a little message and put it on the wall.”

Major said it’s not solely the students who are feeling the weight of the tragic event, staff at Pasadena Academy knew Holly well.

“She was a beautiful girl, very active, a lot of friends, loved by all," he said. "She was a high academic student, very much in the sports program, so for the teachers, parents and community members, the wall is here for all.”

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