Two schools mourn death of teenager

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jessie Burchette
The tragic death of a teen from injuries he suffered in a Saturday night wreck has students in two schools and their families trying to cope with the grief.
Word of the accident and death spread quickly among students and staff at North Hills Christian School and West Rowan High School.
Jonathon Thomas Richardson, a 14-year-old North Hills student, died Sunday at Carolinas Medical Center.
His friends, Matthew “Matt” Dale Bishop, 17, and Michael Joseph Tansey, 15, both students at West Rowan High School, were also in the accident and are now left to struggle with their grief and sorrow.
“It’s been a rough day,” Matt Mitchell, North Hills administrator, said Sunday night.
Jonathon enrolled at North Hills in pre-school and has followed in the footsteps of two brothers who graduated there.
“He was a kid who loved life,” Mitchell said. A sports enthusiast, he was on the school’s basketball team.
North Hills staff called all of the families of students and faculty to tell them what had happened and to come together.
“We had time for prayer, to sing hymns and grieve together,” Mitchell said.
The school will have an assembly today and have counselors available to talk with students.
Mitchell was at the hospital Sunday with Richardson’s extended family รณ father Steve Richardson and stepmother Theresa; mother Melissa Cummings and stepfather Barry Cummings.
Matthew Bishop, the driver of the truck, was also at the hospital when his friend died.
“Steve and Theresa told him (what happened) was a mistake,” Mitchell said. And they told Bishop, he said, ” ‘You’ve got to forgive yourself. We forgive you.’ ”
Jonathon Richardson had attended the annual high school retreat Thursday and Friday at the Ridgecrest Center near Asheville.
Mitchell recalled that during a discussion, one of the students observed, “We don’t know the number of of our days. We think we are invincible. We need to ready.”
Jonathon formed a friendship with Michael Joseph Tansey, the other boy in the vehicle, while Tansey attended North Hills, where his relatives had attended. Tansey was currently enrolled at West Rowan High School.
Word of the accident also spread quickly among the West students and staff.
Scott Young, football coach at West, learned of the accident from a teammate of Bishop, who is a fullback and plays on special teams for the squad.
“He said Matt was not doing very well and asked me to give him a call,” Young said.
The coach called and tried to console him.
“He (Matt) is really tore up, he’s in pieces. He couldn’t make it through the phone conversation. He wanted me to know he wasn’t going to be there Monday night” for West Rowan’s home game against Lake Norman, a game rescheduled from Friday night, Young said.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the families. While we’re going to try our best to focus on the game, there are more important things than a football game,” he said.
“We will play hard in the memory of the boy,” Young said of Jonathon. “Matt will be with us in spirit.”