A car accident Monday evening left a teenager dead and sent an entire community into mourning as word of the tragedy spread.
Samuel Robertson, who was weeks away from beginning his freshman year of high school at Woodland, was killed when a car driven by his brother Dale, a rising Woodland senior, left the roadway on a northern county road.
Details regarding the cause of the accident and the specific cause of Robertson's death were not available at press time.
Woodland coach Lane Gay was with the Robertson family at the hospital Monday night and spoke to students who gathered at an impromptu memorial service at the school Tuesday morning.
"For a long period of time, it was just a somber moment," Gay said of the Tuesday gathering. "Everybody was real quiet. There was a few hugging necks and some quiet time together, and then I spoke to them briefly and Mr. Waites, the principal, spoke to them briefly. And then one of the counselors had prayer with the group."
Samuel was a member of the Woodland football team that was preparing to start official practice in two weeks. Following the larger group gathering Tuesday, the football players migrated to the school's weight room to begin the difficult process of dealing with the loss of one of their teammates.
"We had another little small talk about how to kind of approach life tragedies, looking for the positive in things," Gay said. "And we talked about the last moments you spend with somebody being so important, trying to reflect upon what's the last conversation you had with that person and bringing away the positives, but always keeping life as the focus, valuing that time together. I think they needed that."
Gay said he has not yet spoken at length with Dale about the accident.
"Nothing more than just hugging his neck and saying, 'I'm here for you. I love you,' and those type of things. In the setting that I've been with him so far, that's just what I felt he needed," Gay said.
Gay has been the head baseball coach at Woodland for the past four seasons and is a long-time assistant on the football team. Those positions gave him ample time to interact with Samuel, who earned a starting outfield spot as an eighth-grader on last year's baseball team.
"Great kid," Gay said. "Always had a smile on his face. He was always that 'Yes, sir; no, sir' kind of kid. He was very involved in the athletic program. He was a hard worker, always somebody that you could depend on to be there and give great effort. Just one of those kids that you could always count on."
Gay has been acting as the head football coach while the search continues for Jeremy Stanford's replacement. Gay acknowledged the fast-approaching season, but said football has to take a backseat amid such tragedy.
"I don't want to rush getting back to normalcy," Gay said. "I want that time of grieving for the community, and I'm by no means going to put football first. That's the least important thing right now. Being a small community the way it is, and going through some trials currently, it's going to be tough on them."
As news of the accident spread Monday night, members of the Woodland community flooded social media with posts of mourning and support for the Robertson family. A prayer vigil for the family has also been announced for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Liberty Grove Church in Woodland.
"My emotions have changed multiple times over the last few hours, so I know theirs probably have. And that'll happen continuously, not for just the next few days but for a long time," Gay said. "It's something that I don't feel, even when you're in a leadership role, it's nothing that you ever really feel prepared for to happen."