By Mike Grant
---- — MONTGOMERY - The normally boisterous hallways at Barr-Reeve Junior Senior High School were subdued on Monday. Students and staff, boys and girls were filled with shock and grief, because of the death of Brandon Kyle Wagler.
Wagler, 18, a former star basketball and baseball player and co-valedictorian this spring, died Sunday morning in a traffic accident on CR 1200-E near Boggs Lake.
The Daviess County Sheriff's Office reports Wagler was driving north on the roadway when the car he was operating hydroplaned on the wet pavement while passing another car. Deputies say the car left the roadway and struck a tree.
Daviess County Coroner Laura Petty pronounced him dead at the scene. A passenger in the car, Brandon's brother, Jacob Wagler, 12, was taken to Daviess Community Hospital where he was treated for cuts and bruises and later released.
"It has hit the students really hard," said Barr-Reave Junior-Senior High School Principal Jeff Doyle. "He was well liked by the students and even though he had graduated, he was still very active in the community."
Wagler was an all-conference basketball player at Barr-Reeve his senior year, the only year he played on the varsity full time. "I was sitting on the porch, just thinking about the rain," said Barr-Reeve basketball coach Bryan Hughes. "Then I heard the sirens going through town and a little later I got a call that Brandon had died. It hit me hard. It's still hard to take. We spent a lot of time together."
Even though Brandon had graduated in the spring, his death still cast a long shadow of sorrow over the school. He has a brother and sister among the 368 students at the Junior-Senior High. He also has a sister in elementary school.
"The kids are hurting because they knew Brandon," said Doyle. "They know his sisters and brother. They are grieving because they are grieving the loss of a friend or as a friend of the family."
School officials did take some special steps to try and help the students. "As soon as we found out we contacted the staff," explained Doyle. "We began our morning with a moment of silence for Brandon, and also brought in ministers and counselors. They were in the cafeteria. We also held some sessions with members of the basketball and baseball team that were close to him. We also tried to meet with some of the students who are close to his sister. We just gave them an opportunity to talk with the counselors or the staff."
The Barr-Reeve community is not just small, but tight-knit. Wagler made a big impact during his time there. "The students weren't the only one affected, so were the members of the staff," said Doyle. "It's been tough."
"He was just a great kid," added Hughes. "His death touched students, staff, the community. Everyone handles grief differently. There's a lot of shock involved. They can't believe it. He was a friend to a lot of kids."
Now, the school remembers Brandon Wagler. "Brandon was a special person," said Doyle. "He was the kind of kid you would want your own kid to grow up to be like. Great student, great athlete, but an even better person."
"He was one of those unique kids," added Hughes. He helped me be a better coach and a better person."
The next step will be to help those he touched move forward. "We've lost a lot," said Hughes. "Everyone is trying to deal with it in thir own way. The hallways are as quiet as I've ever seen."
"We want to make sure we have the support for them here," said Doyle. "Our kids are grieving, hurting. They're getting through it together. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Randy Wagler family. The thing that gives me solace is this is a strong community. The people in this community will come together for the family."
School officials say they expect several students to be absent on Wednesday when funeral services are being held for Wagler.