School works to console grieving students

SAN MARCOS — It was a somber mood on campus as 20 crisis team counselors worked with students at Woodland Park Middle School June 13 to help them cope with the sudden death of a classmate who collapsed during a school dance just before the school week ended.
The eighth-grade dance June 9 turned tragic when 14-year-old Sabrina Keller sat down in a chair, slumped over and became unresponsive for unknown reasons, reports said.
According to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office, the cause of death is still unknown.
“Some of the kids saw her collapse and we did our best to clear out the students before paramedics arrived,” said David Cochrane, the school’s principal.
He said that nobody panicked, and that he and two other administrators worked with parent volunteers and took charge of different aspects of the emergency to maintain order.
But despite aggressive medical intervention, Keller was pronounced dead at 10:10 p.m. after being airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital. Cochrane said it was a tragic situation.
He said Keller was well liked by her peers, got good grades and was always smiling.
Keller was a Girl Scout who had been recognized as the top cookie seller in the county.
Sally Benjamins was one of the counselors at the middle school and said that each first-period classroom had a counselor present to talk to students.
“We did a verbal exercise,” she said. The purpose was to let students express themselves, she added.
She said students have lots of questions; and there have also been rumors.
“I’m finding they all grieve in different ways. Some want to cry and leave the room, others want to do it in writing,” she said.
Cyndi Hammers, of San Marcos, handed out blue ribbons to students at the school Monday. The color represented the color of Keller’s eyes, she said.
“They’re wearing them around their wrists and remembering, ” she said.
Hammers said Keller was a wonderful girl.
A fund has been set up for the Keller family. Donations will be accepted at any Mission Federal Credit Union, account No. 91217377. Checks can be addressed to Brian Keller or MFCU, memo: Sabrina Keller. For more information, contact Nastasya Balle, MFCU Assistant Branch Manager, San Marcos, at (800) 500-6328, ext. 3462


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