Death prompts structural review of school

Print More

By Sean Gagnier
Williamston Post staff writer

Williamston police officer leaves Williamston High School

Fourteen-year-old Williamston High School freshman Gabe Corbett was killed in the boys’ locker room when a concrete block wall collapsed on him. Reports from police and school officials stated that Corbett had been performing either pull-ups or climbing on the wall when it collapsed on him.

Williamston High School Principal Jeff Thoenes said that the wall did not reach the ceiling and was an end-cap at the edge of a pod of lockers. The wall was designed to support the lockers and was not structurally necessary to support the building.

School officials said that the section of the school where the accident took place was constructed in 1990, when it was initially inspected by an architect.

Prior to 2002, Michigan did not require the inspection of new school construction, so the wall was probably not inspected after its initial 1990 construction. Prior to the new law in 2002, Michigan only required fire and electrical inspections.

An architectural inspector did come to the school in 2006 but never ventured beyond the new addition that had recently been completed on the school, so he never entered the portion of the building constructed in 1990.

Williamston school officials assured parents that the school was safe and said that both

Friends and relatives of Corbett created a Facebook page dedicated to him within hours of the news of his death. Members of this group were unwilling to give any comment on the story and asked for the community to move on and remember Corbett.

An inspector from the school’s insurance company and a structural engineer will visit the site of the accident to attempt to determine a cause of the collapse.

“Obviously, we’re going to bring some folks in to look at it, and it’s going to be several days – or even weeks – before we have a final answer,” said Steve Cook, finance director for Williamston Community Schools.

Williamston High School has two boys’ locker rooms and facilities that were added in 1997 and 2007, but Williamston Police confirmed that the accident occurred in the older locker room, built in 1990. Police and school officials did not comment on why the wall did not extend to the ceiling and stopped short of saying why they believe the wall collapsed.

“We have a pretty good handle on how that wall came down, but we’re not going to go any further than that right now,” Williamston Police Chief Bob Young said.

The police have officially determined that the incident was accidental and have transferred any subsequent investigation to the Williamston schools.

Since the accident, the locker room has been sealed off from students while the investigation is ongoing.

Thoenes said that the collapse of the wall will be fully investigated but it is being considered a tragic accident. He assured parents that the school is otherwise very safe.

Comments are closed.