QUINCY, W.Va. — Riverside High School Principal Valerie Harper knew the news was bad when she woke up and checked her phone Sunday morning.
“Text messages and emails were coming in about eleven o’clock (Sat. night), but I was already in bed,” she said. “When I woke up and saw the number of text messages and emails I knew something bad was going on.”
She was right. Student Cody Perdue, 17, and 2013 graduate Mason Roush, 18, were both dead. Kirsten Young, 16, also a Riverside student was in the hospital after a head-on collision near Marmet on Route 61. Investigating State Troopers said Roush was attempting to pass a vehicle and didn’t get back across the line before hitting Perdue’s vehicle.
Perdue and Roush become the third and fourth students at Riverside to die in the past six months. Harper said it never gets easier to offer condolences to a grieving family or to help a crushed student body deal with the loss.
“I don’t think there’s any special words I can say to comfort families going through this. Just my heart’s there for them and I’m sorry for their loss,” she said. “As a school and as a community we’re grieving. We’re grieving the death of two great boys.”
Students were off Monday for Columbus Day. Harper and other school administrators helped organize a candlelight vigil at the school’s football stadium for Monday night. Counselors will be on hand to help students who knew the pair to cope. Harper noted it wasn’t just her students who are feeling the loss. Perdue was a student in the plumbing program at Carver Career and Technical Center and had many friends there as well.
“We’ll encourage kids to be patient with one another, to give each other more space, and take it one step at a time,” Harper said. “Just let them know we love them and care for them and we’re going to get through this together.”