Signs of comfort, support for Del Oro, Newcastle in crash deaths

Community outpouring helps after tragedy
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News and Auburn Journal reports
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Del Oro High School and Newcastle Elementary Charter school, along with the community, have inched toward healing after two teen girls were killed in a sport-utility vehicle crash Feb. 3 on Auburn Folsom Road.

Services for Vivian Connor, of Newcastle, were held on Saturday and a celebration of life was held for Del Oro junior Morgan Helman on Monday.

On the Newcastle campus where Connor was an eighth-grader, a pink camellia bush and garden area were dedicated Friday in a gathering for the community that the girl’s family attended.

The Newcastle school’s courtyard was filled with signs of support for Connor’s family, friends and eighth-grade classmates. During the ceremony, students released pink balloons – Vivian’s favorite color – for a girl who had spent all her school years there.

“We loved every minute with Vivian and we will remember her with love always,” Newcastle Principal Kathleen Daugherty said.

At Del Oro, banners hang bearing messages of comfort and support to students. These banners were made and sent by local high schools.

“It’s really great all these schools can put aside their differences and give support,” Del Oro freshman Crosby Tinucci said.

Last week, during the Del Oro vs. Roseville varsity basketball game, a period of silence was observed in the stands. Del Oro principal Dan Gayaldo said students on both sides of the gym observed three to five minutes of silence, until the first 10 points of the game were scored, to honor the teens lost.

“It was amazing to see the entire student body of both schools stand in unison, and lock arms. There wasn’t a sound from the stands,” Gayaldo said.

Gayaldo said the support from high schools throughout Placer County has transcended any sports rivalries the schools may share.

“The loss goes much deeper in everyone’s heart and soul. This breaks down all the barriers,” Gayaldo said.

Gayaldo said Del Oro students and staff have experienced an outpouring of calls, letters and emails offering thanks, support and comfort.

Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy member and clinical psychologist Pat Bach, who has been on the Del Oro campus working with students and staff, said the volume of tragedies that have come so close together have hit the campus hard. Helman’s death marked the fourth loss of a current or former Del Oro student in the past few months.

“Their cup has been overflowing,” Bach said.

Bach said area students from many different high schools took to social media to share their support via Instagram and Facebook. She called the outpouring “generous.”

“Many (students and faculty) have gone out of their way to really express and demonstrate their support,” she said.

Gayaldo said that the chaplaincy group was holding critical incident stress debriefing on campus Tuesday for 15 to 20 staff and faculty members to help them deal with the compounded tragedies. He said they would also be coming up with coping skills to help students.

Gayaldo said another group would be coming in to work with the school counselors to help them so they could continue their ongoing support of students.

Gayaldo said one positive thing to come out of the tragedies is that “people are communicating.”

“This will help families have conversations. Students are reaching out to each other and communicating,” he said.

The Journal’s Gus Thomson contributed to this report.