BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Students, teachers and friends at West Ridge High School are mourning the loss of freshmen Gracie McBryant, who died in a house fire early Saturday morning.
Dr. Josh Davis, principal at West Ridge High School, told News Channel 11 there’s a tough week ahead for the West Ridge community.
“Initially, there’s just a lot of shock. It’s hard to imagine your friend on Friday night at a ballgame with you in the band marching. [Gracie] was there Friday night for our home football game, celebrating a victory, celebrating all the things the band does and then less than 24 hours later she’s gone,” said Davis.
News Channel 11 spoke with Brice Lyons, a next-door neighbor of Gracie’s. “I woke up to loud explosions and people screaming, and I was thinking someone got shot out here or something. Next thing you know, I walk outside and I see a big flame of the camper next door on fire.”
Lyons said he was ‘devastated’ when he found out someone was inside the camper. “I just [saw] ashes flying over [the] top of my house, and I was just devastated when I found out.”
Gracie was in 9th grade and played clarinet in the band at the high school. She was said to be a standout member and loved by many. “Her friends in band and our band directors have all talked about what just an amazing person she was. She was full of life and bright personality,” said Davis.
According to Principal Davis, mental health counselors and pastoral care will be available to students starting Monday morning. A GoFundMe is currently in the works and the band at the high school will be raising money for Gracie’s family.
A release from the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) said the fire appears to be accidental, but is being investigated by the SCSO and the TBI.