High school classmates, community mourns the loss of Aaron Burnell in accident

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Switzerland County High School senior Aaron Burnell, 19, was fatally injured Friday night as a result of a one vehicle accident on Bethel Ridge.

Switzerland County Sheriff Nathan Hughes said that the exact cause of the accident is still under investigation, and the sheriff’s office is being assisted in the investigation by the Indiana State Police. The Switzerland County Coroner’s office also assisted at the scene, long with both stations of the East Enterprise Volunteer Fire Department and Switzerland County EMS.

Three other occupants in the vehicle: Kyle Romans of Vevay, Zachary Romans of Vevay, and Jamie Gillis of Vevay, were also injured in the accident; and were transported to King’s Daughters’ Hospital. All have now been released from the hospital.

Sheriff Hughes asks that anyone who may have any information as to the cause of the accident call the Switzerland County Sheriff’s Department at 427-3636. All information will be kept confidential.

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News of the accident spread shockwaves across the county on Friday night; and the news also reached to the north, where the Switzerland County High School boys basketball team was preparing to play in the Regional Tournament in Alexandria, north of Anderson.

Team members were watching a movie at a theater when news began to come in about the accident. Pacer head coach David Todd gathered his team together to comfort them and also discuss the possibility of forfeiting the game and heading back to Switzerland County.

After an emotional discussion, team members decided to continue with tournament play; and as they took the floor on Saturday, each player had a black stripe across the shoulder of their uniform.

Members of the cheerleading squad, along with parents and other Switzerland County fans, were already in Alexandria on Friday night due to the long distance that had to be traveled to the game; and the entire contingent was filled with disbelief as more and more news came via cell phones.

Cheerleaders and others in the crowd were seen sporting black ribbons in Aaron Burnell’s memory on Saturday; and although the accident was temporarily pushed to the back of the minds of players and fans during the contest; as the final buzzer sounded, thoughts immediately returned to their fallen classmate and his family; as well as the other students who were injured in the accident.

High school principal Derek Marshall asked ministers from county churches to come to the school on Monday morning to assist with grief counseling for students; and the calling on Monday evening at Haskell and Morrison Funeral Home saw large numbers of students. The Switzerland County School Board canceled its meeting on Monday evening due to the funeral calling.

Many students, especially members of the senior class, were excused from classes on Tuesday so that they could attend the funeral service. Principal Marshall said that the student body and staff are still dealing with the emotion of the loss.

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Aaron Lee Burnell was born on June 18th, 1986 in Indianapolis, and had resided in Switzerland County for the past 11 years. He was raised here by his grandparents: Larry and Janet Mundy, who survive.

He enjoyed basketball, playing paintball, and fishing; but most of all enjoyed being with his friends.

Very popular with the entire student body, the close-knit senior class was especially hard hit by Aaron Burnell’s death. Students sought a way to say goodbye, and their thoughts and special messages can be found on page 8 of today’s edition. Those thoughts were gathered by senior classmate Amanda Faber.

Many classmates remarked about Aaron’s smile and his sense of humor, noting that he also had a smile for everyone, and his jokes always made them laugh.

Funeral services were held on Tuesday, and burial was in the Spencer Cemetery in Sheridan, Indiana.

For a complete obituary of Aaron Lee Burnell, see page 2 of today’s edition.