Okay pulls together in wake of teen deaths

A make shift memorial of items left behind by friends and family of Brindon Gillin and Hunter Baumman mark the charred site of a Friday afternoon wreck in which the two Okay Public Schools students were killed.

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — The close-knit community of Okay has rallied around the families of two teenagers killed Friday.

Brindon Gillin and Hunter Dale Baumann died when the pickup they were in crashed and caught fire about 3:35 p.m. Friday near the entrance to Wahoo Bay on Fort Gibson Lake. Funeral services for Baumann, 16, are scheduled for noon Friday at the Okay High School Gym.

Mark Hayes, principal at Okay High School, said extra counselors have been brought onto the campus this week to counsel students who wanted to discuss their feelings. The lockers of the deceased students have been adorned with flowers, balloons and personal notes left behind by fellow students, he said.

"We have our own school counselor of course, but we brought a couple of others from outside in to visit with our students," Hayes said. 

He was not sure how many students took advantage of the opportunities to visit with counselors.

"Sometimes, they were all extremely busy and sometimes not so much," Hayes said. 

But he said having the listening ears available with professionals was the right thing to do in helping friends find closure with the sudden and tragic deaths.

"We hope this was a step in helping our students say goodbye," Hayes said. 

Bringing the counselors in is a part of the district's Emergency Response Program.

"This is a small community, and as a school we're a microcosm of the community," Hayes said. 

An example of how the community is pulling together is a fundraising pie auction event set in conjunction with a Tuesday night basketball game.

"Our FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America) usually holds pie auctions and a lot of other fundraisers to fund trips," he said. "In light of what happened, they decided to turn tonight's pie auction into a benefit for the families."

The seventh- through 12th-grade campus in Okay has about 170 students, Hayes said. While a couple of other funerals have been held in the school gym in his five-year tenure at the school, Hayes said Friday's service for Baumann is the first for a student at the school he could recall.

Hunter Baumann's father, Chris Baumann, remembered his son as a person who loved the outdoors.

"He loved to fish and hunt and getting in the mud," Chris Baumann said. "That was about all that little fellow wanted to do, that and hang out with girls."

Baumann said he has been amazed by the amount of support the families have received from the community.

"I just want to say thanks for everything everyone is doing," he said. "It really means a lot."

As a father, he said some of the times he will remember most about his son have to do with the times they spent outdoors together.

"It's things like killing his first deer and catching his first fish that I'll remember," Baumann said. 

Okay pulls together in wake of teen deaths

Notes, flowers, stuffed animals and other items have been left behind as part of a makeshift memorial at the wreck scene where two Okay Public Schools students died Friday afternoon. The single-vehicle crash happened at the entrance to Wahoo Bay on Fort Gibson Lake about 3:35 p.m. Friday.

He said Hunter got so excited at times like those.

"Those, and he liked the mud and just driving his pickup," Chris Baumann said.

Baumann said a fundraising bake sale and other events are scheduled to help defray funeral expenses.

He and other family members plan to attend the event.

Reach Mike Elswick at (918) 684-2954, @melswickMPhx or melswick@muskogeephoenix.com.


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