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Community grieves loss of 12-year-old

The community spent Wednesday grappling with the loss of a 12-year-old who died in an accident involving a tractor-trailer cab in a North Suffolk neighborhood on Tuesday evening.

The incident was reported at 5:36 p.m., according to a press release from city spokeswoman Diana Klink. It happened in the 6100 block of Brookwood Drive in North Suffolk.

Klink has not said what happened during the accident.

The victim was a student at John Yeates Middle School. Principal Shawn Green sent a letter home to parents on Wednesday, encouraging them to discuss the situation with their children in a way that is appropriate for their family.

“It is important to talk to them and listen to them as they share fears or concerns they may have as a result of this heartbreaking news,” Green wrote.

Suffolk Public Schools spokeswoman Bethanne Bradshaw stated in an email on Wednesday that the school division had grief counselors at John Yeates Middle School all day to talk with students and staff. Some were also at Creekside Elementary School, which the student attended previously.

Officials have not identified the victim by name. But the physical education teacher at Creekside, Erik Johnson, started a GoFundMe account on Wednesday for the family of Israel Parker, who he wrote died on Tuesday.

“Israel was one of the best,” Johnson said in a phone interview Wednesday evening. “He’d come to school with a smile on his face, and he was there for other students.”

Johnson runs The Association, a mentoring group for fourth- and fifth-grade boys at Creekside. Israel wanted to be part of the group, even though he did not start attending Creekside until fifth grade.

“He was so excited and he made immediate changes to the way he was doing things,” Johnson said of Israel’s reaction to getting into the group. “He really embodied what we were doing.”

Johnson said Israel, along with a couple of other students, volunteered to clean up the gym at the end of the day and then played basketball for a few minutes before they had to go.

Israel was encouraging to others around him, Johnson said.

“He was that infectious kid,” Johnson said. “If you were having a bad day and Israel put that smile on you, it changed. He had the ability to change the people around him for the better.”

Israel could talk about current events with the wisdom of someone who had the benefit of many more years on earth, Johnson said.

“You talk to the kid, and you feel like you’ve known him for 30 years,” Johnson said. “He was an old soul.”

Johnson said it is encouraging to see how everyone in Suffolk comes together in the midst of tragedy.

“If something happens, the city, the school, the school district comes together,” Johnson said.

He said he hopes support to the GoFundMe campaign continues, “so we can give Israel exactly what he deserves in terms of a funeral and a final goodbye.”

Johnson said a vigil, originally set for Wednesday, has been changed to Friday, from 6 to 7 p.m. at College Drive Park.

Klink stated in the press release that no one was arrested in connection with the accident.

“The father of the victim was briefly detained at the scene by the Suffolk Police Department due to his actions toward the driver of the tractor-trailer cab,” she wrote.

In response to follow-up questions, she declined to elaborate on what exactly “detained” meant or what the actions of the father were.

At the father’s request, the Suffolk Police Department took him to visit a relative for support and then brought him back to the scene after the visit, Klink’s press release stated.

Klink also declined to answer questions about why the truck was in the residential neighborhood, whether the truck driver was injured and whether the truck was moving at the time of the accident.

Klink said the investigation is ongoing, and no further information is available.