TEMPE, AZ - It's a tough day for students at a Tempe high school as news of a fellow classmate's death starts to sink in for many.
The principal of Corona del Sol High School said some of Jake McGrady's friends are planning a vigil later this week.
A school psychologist and guidance counselor went to McGrady's classrooms and broke the news to students Tuesday, offering assistance if needed.
McGrady, 17, died at a Flagstaff hospital after he was injured in a sledding accident the day before.
According to the Coconino County Sheriff's Office, he was sledding down a snow-covered hill that's frequently used in an area called Mountainaire.
His plastic sled went out of control and slammed into a tree. One other person on the sled suffered minor injuries.
McGrady was with 11 other classmates and two parent chaperones. The trip was not a school-sponsored event.
Travis Blaser, a friend and classmate, said he was supposed to go on the trip. "In shock," he said about Jake's death. "So out of nowhere, not expected."
Blaser said he's known McGrady since middle school. He described him as a "funny, sarcastic" person.
He said McGrady was well-liked and on the school's football team.
Blaser scribbled "#81" on his cheeks to honor McGrady's uniform number.
Blaser said he and his friends are trying to cope by supporting one another and sharing memories of McGrady.
"Really good kid. I'm just going to miss him," he said.
Angela Carter, McGrady's guidance counselor, said he was a friendly, quiet student. "Respectful," she added.
Carter said the school has offered counseling to students who need it.
"Whenever a tragedy happens, it's just very difficult for everyone," she said. "Sometimes, events like this bring out tragedies in their (lives). They deal with this in different ways."
Brent Brown, the school's principal, said this tragedy is the second one in less than 12 months.
Last summer, two siblings died in a murder-suicide. Police say Malissa Butwin and Daniel Butwin were killed by their father.
Their bodies, along with the bodies of their mother and another sibling, were found torched in Pinal County.
Carter said there is concern that students may still be dealing with residual feelings, making it harder to cope with another loss.
"Nobody plans for these tragedies," she said.
School officials urge students to reach out to them if they need help. We are available, Carter said.
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