Community mourns tragic loss of Canton teen

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Grief counselors and support services were made available and CHS students all wore royal blue as a show of solidarity in honor of 16-year-old Paul O’Brien, a CHS sophomore who died from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident on Chapel Street on Friday evening, September 11.

Paul O'Brien

Paul O’Brien

An investigation is ongoing, but police believe O’Brien lost control of his Jeep Commander as he was backing it out of his family’s driveway. O’Brien sustained serious injuries and was transported to Norwood Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Canton police officers, in conjunction with members of the Massachusetts State Police reconstruction team, are investigating the cause of the incident as well as the mechanical condition of the vehicle. Rafferty said the official investigation results would take some time to conclude.

Canton High School opened at 9 a.m. on Saturday and school resource officers, grief counselors and school staff were on hand to support the student body. All school events and sports were canceled on September 12.

Interim School Superintendent Jen Henderson said she had approximately 40 students take advantage of the counseling and support services at CHS. She said there were approximately 20 administrators, school crisis team members, and CHS faculty on hand for the counseling sessions along with Canton Police Detective Chip Yeaton and Officer Kevin Albert. Henderson said Police Chief Ken Berkowitz was also invaluable in responding to the needs of the Canton school community.

Canton High School reopened on Tuesday, September 15, after being closed on Monday in observance of Rosh Hashanah. Henderson said many counselors were available for students, faculty, and families on Tuesday.

“We had extra folks on board today from the other schools as well as CHARMS counselors,” Henderson said late Tuesday morning. “We will probably go down to regular counseling staff numbers over the next day, but we have everyone on standby. Students’ re-entry was supported this morning by all of the CHS faculty, police resource officers, administration, and additional counselors. [CHS Principal Derek Folan] began the morning with a moment of reflection and silence and then let students know that there were supports available to them if needed.”

CHS students all received notice from Senior Class President Michael Noone that they should wear royal blue — O’Brien’s favorite color — to school on Tuesday.

In a statement issued to all Canton Public School students, families, and faculty on September 11, Henderson wrote, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Paul’s family at this time in the loss of this wonderful young man … This is a difficult time for our Canton family. Please do not hesitate to reach out for support if needed. I ask you to join with me as we all come together for this student, his family, and our own Canton family.”

Folan also issued a statement to the CHS community, calling O’Brien a “special person in our tight-knit school community.”

“All of our thoughts and support are with his family and friends during this difficult time,” Folan said. “As a school, we will remember Paul as an affable young man who developed close relationships with many students and staff and as a student who always worked hard to get better each day. He will be greatly missed.

“At Canton High School, we stand by one another and care for one another during our celebrations and during our most difficult times, such as this morning. I can only imagine the impact this news will have on your sons and daughters.”

Click here for obituary information.

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