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Wootton, Churchill Mourn Losses

In deadly weekend, Wootton junior killed by hit-and-run driver; Churchill student dies in crash.

ver the weekend, Churchill’s junior class president Jeremy Sherer and Wootton’s junior class president Celia Chao held a conversation no student leader wants to have. Each school’s junior class lost a student to an automobile-related death within hours of each other on Friday evening and early Saturday morning.

Wootton junior Solomon J. King was struck in a hit-and-run automobile collision while walking down the 14200 block of Travilah Road on the evening of Friday, Nov. 12. Solomon was taken to Suburban Hospital, and died the following morning from his injuries.

Early in the morning of Saturday, Nov. 13, Churchill junior Sarkis George Nazarian was pronounced dead on the scene after the vehicle he was driving slid off the road and struck a tree on the 12500 block of Travilah Road, according to police reports. Two passengers in Nazarian’s car were treated at the scene and did not require hospitalization. All three teenagers in the vehicle had attended a party in Potomac earlier that night.

"At the party he was at, alcohol was served, but whether he had consumed any alcohol — we have to wait for the medical examiners on that," said Officer Derek Baliles, on Tuesday.

Witnesses who talked to police said that the students involved in the crash had been drinking, but officially the case is only being classified as "alcohol related" pending toxicology reports.

A CANDLELIGHT VIGIL took place on Saturday night at the accident scene where Solomon was struck, which was attended by many of his friends. Chao and Wootton Principal Michael Doran described a subdued school atmosphere on the following Monday.

“I could tell in the classroom; it was kind of quiet,” Chao said.

“It was very subdued,” Doran said about the day. “The tragedy happened on Friday night, so the students had the chance to be together [before Monday]. They were already working through some of these issues. … At the moment, it’s a crime scene, so they’re kind of angry.”

Grief counselors and psychologists were available to Wootton students on Monday. Each Wootton student received a letter from Doran to the Wootton parent community describing how the school was responding, and some tips to parents about helping their children during such a situation.

“Some parents don’t know how to deal with this,” Doran said.

Chao met with student government leaders on Monday. “Our class definitely wants to contribute something,” she said. While ideas are still in the rough-draft phase, Chao said the class of ‘06 will probably start a scholarship fund to be presented to a Wootton student at the class graduation.

Fundraising ideas included making and selling T-shirts with some of solomon King’s artwork, and a Wootton night at California Tortilla Kitchen in Cabin John Shopping Center.

In the springtime, Chao said, the junior class wants to add a stone to Wootton’s memorial garden, inscribed with a plaque for Solomon.

CHURCHILL’S VARSITY football team played a home game on Saturday afternoon, roughly 10 hours after Nazarian’s death. There were no announcements made about Nazarian at the football game. Some football players were aware of the accident, but they opted not to talk about it until after the game.

In the stands, it was a different story, said Sherer. Many Churchill students who attended the game were aware of the news. One girl wore a T-shirt she’d made in tribute to Nazarian.

“Everyone knew about it, and very few kids stayed home because of it,” Sherer said. “I think most of the students wanted to be there to support each other.”

Sherer himself was aware, having received e-mail from a classmate on Saturday morning about Nazarian’s death. Sherer had known Nazarian since sixth grade.

“He always struck me as a well-rounded kid,” Sherer said. “He was just an all-around good kid, and he will be greatly missed.”

Larry Chloupek, a Potomac resident who coached Nazarian on a baseball team in previous years, had similar thoughts. “The kids really liked him,” Chloupek said. “He was always a very happy-go-lucky type of guy who was always very personable.”

Churchill Principal Joan Benz addressed the school about Nazarian’s death on the following Monday morning. Sherer met with other student government leaders and school guidance counselors to determine ways the students could remember Nazarian.

The school held a moment of silence in Nazarian’s honor on Tuesday, and hosted a forum on adolescents and alcohol on Tuesday night.

“I just hope that we learn a lesson from this, and prevent this tragedy from every happening again,” said Sherer.