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January 27, 2004

Deaf, Blind School Student Dies At Wrestling Practice

From:, FL - Jan 27, 2004

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- While those on the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind campus try to deal with the death of a student, it's up to the medical examiner to determine why a 17-year-old junior collapsed, then died after a practice wrestling match Monday evening.

Esdras D'Haiti had just finished working out with the wrestling team in the school's gymnasium. He was taken to Flagler Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"All of a sudden he just collapsed against his coach. Immediately they called 911," school spokesperson Kathy Gillespie said. "To lose one like this -- it's just, it's really very devastating for all of us."

School officials said this was D'Haiti's first year at the residential school. He was described as a good student, and member of both the wrestling and football teams.

"He was a very good friend," fellow student Jessie Daugherty said. "He was kind. He played sports. He was hard working. He played with the team a lot. He never gave up."

FSDB President Elmer Dillingham went to the hospital, then called the student's family in Miami to inform them. They arrived in St. Augustine early Tuesday morning. The school said it was assisting the family in any way it could.

"Our thoughts are with the family of Esdras and your children as we all cope with such a loss," Dillingham said in a statement. "When memorial arrangements are known, the information will be shared with our employees and the deaf department high school parents."

The school said there is an investigation into D'Haiti's death, and that grief counselors were provided for the high school students. A basketball game and wrestling match scheduled Tuesday evening were cancelled.

A memorial service for D'Haiti was scheduled Wednesday.

Dillingham said he would send a letter home to high school parents who are bused, letting them know the events, and asking them to monitor their child's behavior.

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