June 20, 2018
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Hampden school must contend with grief, rumors

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

HAMPDEN, Maine — Friday was another solemn day at Hampden Academy as students and faculty continued to deal with the death of Nathan Clark, a student whose body was found Thursday afternoon near a remote gravel pit.

Local police have released few details about the 17-year-old boy’s death or the circumstances surrounding it, even as rumors have ramped up in the community.

Hampden Academy Principal Ruey Yehle said one of the biggest challenges for school administrators and teachers has been to rein in the litany of unconfirmed information.

“First of all, I would say that the police have been great and have given us what they know is true,” Yehle said.

“But there is still lots of information we don’t have. Human nature tends to be that, if there is a void, people will fill it.”

The principal said all staff members were given a script Friday detailing confirmed information from police. The boy had run away from home. He had been missing for five days. He reportedly did not contact anyone during that time. He was found near a gravel pit off Back Winterport Road. The cause of death has not been released.

An autopsy on Clark’s body was done Friday at the State Medical Examiner’s Officer in Augusta.

An official determination on the cause of Clark’s death, however, has not been made, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office said later Friday afternoon. The results are pending additional investigation, including a toxicology report.

“It’s a process,” Yehle said. “Everything isn’t instantaneous, but at the same time it’s hard to wait.”

While her staff is working to dispel rumors, Yehle said if students do have credible information about Clark’s death, they should go forward to police. In the meantime, counselors, psychologists, clergy members and others have been and will continue to be made available at Hampden Academy for as long as is necessary.

“We’ve provided a whole lot of support for students who want it,” Yehle said. “It’s been a day for kids to gather together and talk, or to keep doing their thing, if that’s how they want to deal [with it]. We’ve been very flexible.”

Several Hampden Academy students and recent graduates have died tragically in the last few years, some in car accidents, some by committing suicide.

“It’s all relative,” Yehle said when asked if her school of approximately 750 students has had it worse than others. “We certainly feel a loss for every student, graduate or employee, but it’s difficult when you do have the amount of people every year that we have. There are odds in life.”

A number of activities at Hampden Academy have been postponed in the wake of Clark’s death, including the spring play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that would have been staged this weekend and the Mock Trial dessert theatre, which was to be held Sunday, March 29. Both will be rescheduled.

“Of course, our thoughts and sympathies go out to the Clark family,” she said.

Visiting hours have been scheduled for 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, at Hampden-Gilpatrick Funeral Home at 45 Western Ave. in Hampden, according to the school’s Web site, which can be seen at www.sad22.us/ha/.

The funeral service, however, will be private, according to the Web site.



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