The deaths of Kyle Stillion and James Oatridge — both juniors at Peninsula High School — related to car accidents, one on Oct. 5 and the second on Oct. 8, has brought unimaginable grief to those students who knew and loved them.
“As soon as we were informed of Kyle’s death in the early evening of Oct. 5, the PHS and district administrative team began in coordination with the district crisis team to provide emotional support the following day,” PHS Principal David Goodwin said. “That next day was a tough one, but we could not have imagined that only three days later we would get the terrible news that we had just lost James.”
Goodwin said there have been a variety of outlets for students to express their grief in their own way. Large posters were dedicated to Kyle and James for students to write messages on. These were displayed at the memorial services last weekend. Students also wrote letters, painted the large rocks outside the school, created art and music in tribute, and cried together and supported each other.
Austin Lyon, a junior, said he was significantly affected by the deaths of his fellow students.
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“They were both really good guys,” Lyon said. “When you passed them in the hall, they were always cracking jokes. James could bring anyone out of a bad mood, and so could Kyle.”
When Lyon got the news of Kyle’s passing, his first thought was to spray-paint the tailgate of his 1996 Ford F-250 with Kyle’s name and the date and time of his death. But three days later when James was suddenly killed, Lyon decided to haul in the hood of his Ford to school for students to sign and write messages to help them heal.
For a three straight days early last week, Lyon had the hood on display in the cafeteria. On the hood, some students wrote personal messages, while others wrote short phrases like “rest easy” and “see you soon.”
“There are a lot of signatures on the hood,” Lyon said. “There is not an inch left where there are not signatures. I know James got to a lot of people and Kyle did too. Signing one thing helped bring the whole school together.”
Goodwin and the administration were very supportive of Lyon’s idea.
It gave some students an outlet to express their grief for both Kyle and James, and I think it really made Austin feel like he was helping his classmates.
David Goodwin, Peninsula High principal
“First of all, you need to know that Austin is a ‘motor-head’ and if he’s not working on a vehicle then he’s talking about a vehicle,” Goodwin said. “Austin was hit hard by the deaths of Kyle and James, and so when he asked if he could take the hood of his truck and bring it in for students to sign as a memorial we supported him. It gave some students an outlet to express their grief for both Kyle and James, and I think it really made Austin feel like he was helping his classmates.”
Lyon purchased his Ford F-250, which has 288,000 miles on the odometer, at the beginning of summer. He immediately attached two poles in the truck’s bed in order to hang a pair of giant American flags, and plans to hook up a tailgate displaying the names of James and Kyle to go with the hood displaying the poignant messages in remembrance.
“I’m looking to get it clear-coated on the hood and tailgate, so it’s all protected and it seals it in,” Lyon said. “I’m never going to sell this truck. It means a lot to me.”
Goodwin said the service for Kyle on Saturday, and for James on Sunday, were done well and allowed grieving students to pay their respects.
“The grief students are feeling is not going away anytime soon, but we are taking one day at a time and we’ll be offering support for as long as students need it,” he said.