Bridgeport students hurt in ATV crash

BRIDGEPORT — The first day of school can be a happy moment, but for students in the Bridgeport Exempted Village School District, Monday was somber.

Two Bridgeport High School students suffered serious injures early Saturday morning in a single-vehicle accident in Belmont County. According to a dispatcher at the Ohio State Highway Patrol in St. Clairsville, an all-terrain vehicle driven by 18-year-old senior Garett Duncan traveled off the left side of Sloan Road and struck a tree, ejecting both occupants. The dispatcher did not indicate whether either rider was wearing a safety helmet.

“It is a dark day for Bridgeport schools,” an emotional Superintendent Zac Shutler said Monday afternoon while not going into further details. “Our prayers go out to everybody involved.”

Duncan, a senior two-sport standout for the Bulldogs, was cited for OVI, according to the patrol report, which lists the time of the accident at 1:20 a.m. Saturday.

The dispatcher said she could not release the name or gender of the passenger due to the person’s age.

Both Duncan, who suffered traumatic injuries according to reports, and his passenger were transported to area hospitals by the Barton Volunteer Fire Department and Cumberland Trail Fire District.

He was flown to a Morgantown area hospital Monday due to complications. His condition was unknown late Monday night.

Shutler said he and Athletic Director Greg Harkness have been in constant contact with Duncan’s family.

“We went to Ohio Valley Medical Center when he was in ICU,” Shutler said.

According to the 17-year-old female passenger’s mother, her child is at home recovering from the sustained injuries.

Officials held a vigil in front of Bridgeport High School late Monday afternoon. Approximately 150 people were on hand, including BHS teammates, students, faculty members, administration members, board of education members and members of the community. Also, the volleyball teams representing Bridgeport and River high schools took part in the ceremony prior to their game.

“The situation affects everyone here. It’s not just one family that it affects, but it affects a community when something like this happens,” Pastor Tim Seidler of The Experience Church in Lansing said. “At our church, “we say we’re here to help and we want to live by that.” Any way that we can serve the community. Ultimately, we believe there is power in prayer. When people get together and pray, God’s not far away. He’s up close and he hears our prayers”

Bridgeport head football coach Gary Krol, in his first season at Bridgeport after a lengthy college resume, said this is something he has never had to deal with, and he hopes he never has to again.

“It’s horrible. We’re at a point … I don’t how we are going to respond. These are 14, 15, 16, 17-year-old kids you’re dealing with,” he admitted. “They are going through something that happens way too often in this day and age. I haven’t been through anything like this and I’m not sure which way to go. I’m just trying to follow my gut more than anything.

“I do know that we still have to get ready to play Friday night (at Southern Local),” he added. “Some how, some way, I’ve got to figure out how to instill Garett’s passion for the game into these kids.”

Duncan was to play wide receiver and inside linebacker for the Bulldogs. He qualified for the state wrestling tournament last winter.

When asked about Duncan’s No. 2 jersey, Krol said there has been one player — senior Jeremiah Booker — who has already asked to wear the jersey on Friday night.

“If it was up to me, he could wear it all season,” Krol said of Booker’s gesture. “It’s a great honor for that kid to do that.”

Booker said he and Duncan have been teammates for three years.

“Every year, we would go out before each game and lock arms. Just us two,” Booker said while choking back his emotions. “He’s been my locker buddy and best friend for three years. Every time we’d go out, he’d headbutt me and ask, ‘are you ready?’ I’d ask him, are you ready?

“This is hard,” Booker continued. “Everyone knew Garett was our best player all-around. Now, we know we have to pick it up. We’re down and we’re upset, but we’ve just got to play a little harder.”

A GoFundMe account has been setup on Facebook to help the family with medical expenses.