When is it to young ?
WAYCROSS, Ga. - Students and teachers wore camouflage to class Monday in memory of a Ware County Middle School seventh-grader killed in a hunting accident on the first day of deer season.
Michael James Hurst Jr., 12, of Waycross died Saturday morning when a .30-.30 hunting rifle accidentally discharged as he climbed down with it from a deer stand in woods near Windmill Road in Manor, Ware County Sheriff Randy Royal said.
He died at the scene after being struck in the upper body by the bullet about 8:30 a.m. The lever-action rifle was lying beside the boy at the bottom of the 12-foot-tall homemade deer stand, Royal said.
"It appears he either fell or slipped while climbing down and that his rifle struck the rungs of the ladder, causing it to accidentally discharge," Royal said. There is no indication of foul play.
Although there is no indication of foul play, an autopsy was conducted Monday at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is standard procedure in fatal hunting accidents. The results were not immediately available, county Coroner Atha Lucas said.
Michael was an honors student at school, where he also was a member of its math and wrestling teams. Many of his classmates and others wore camo or black clothing to honor him, school officials said.
“He was very popular and well-respected … This is a great tragedy and he will be greatly missed,” Ware County schools Superintendent Joseph Barrow said.
School system counselors and social workers responded to the campus Monday morning and will remain as long as needed to help comfort those grieving, Barrow said.
Michael loved to hunt and fish, friends said. The accident occurred on the opening day of firearm deer hunting season in Georgia. This was his second year deer hunting, and Saturday he had partnered with his 20-year-old cousin, Royal said.
In Georgia, youths are allowed to hunt if accompanied by an adult. Authorities withheld the cousin’s name because the investigation by county sheriff’s deputies and Georgia Department of Natural Resources rangers is ongoing.
The cousin told deputies he had put Michael up in the deer stand with the rifle, which belonged to another relative, just before dawn. He then walked across a field about 500 yards away to hunt. He was out of sight from the deer stand where Michael was hunting, Royal said.
“He said he heard a shot about 8 a.m. from the area of the boy’s deer stand. Then he heard a second shot a short time later,” Royal said.
Thinking Michael had shot a deer, his cousin returned to the stand. He discovered the boy lying at the bottom of the stand next to the rifle, and called 911 for help, Royal said.
A Fernandina Beach native, Michael had lived most of his life in Waycross. He was a member of Brunel Street Church of God.
Visitation is from 6-8 p.m. today at Music Funeral Home, 1503 Tebeau St., in Waycross. Services are at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Brunel Street Church of God, 1439 Brunel St., also in Waycross. Burial will follow in Camp Branch Cemetery, 4249 Camp Branch Road in Manor.
Arrangements are being handled by Music Funeral Home in Waycross, and sympathy may be expressed at http://www.musicfuneralhome.com.
Survivors include his mother, Patricia Ann Hurst of Waycross; his father, Michael J. Hurst Sr., of Hortense; his stepfather, Dallas Reed of Waycross; a sister, Sierra Hurst of Waycross; three brothers, Harper Branson Hurst of Hortense, and Shawn Reed and Calvin Reed, both of Waycross; his grandparents, Rondal Davis of Glasgow, Ky., Kenneth and Patricia Booth, both of Manor, and Harry Hurst of Raiford, Fla.; step-grandparents, George and Diane Harper of Hortense; and a step-great grandmother, Leila Harper of Hortense.