But just hours after the Oak Hill boy graduated from eighth grade at Rachel Carson Middle School in Herndon, he was dead. His parents said it appears that he was electrocuted trying to help a friend who had been shocked by a live electrical wire. Fairfax County police called the incident a “terrible tragedy.”
Derick Rill said it would not surprise him if his son died rendering aid; it was the way he lived. Bennett tutored kids at Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, and friends said he was quick with an encouraging word. A coach said he went all-out on the basketball court and football field.
“Bennett showed such an incredible spirit. It lifted up his teammates, lifted up his church and lifted up his family,” Derick Rill said. “I want to carry him with me forever. I hope others do the same, too.”
Carolyn Rill said she dropped Bennett and three friends off at Herndon’s Glory Days Grill to eat dinner Tuesday evening. Afterward, the three 14-year-olds and a 15-year-old wandered over to nearby Fox Mill Elementary School.
It’s unclear why, but the teens began to climb the side of the school, which was wet. The president of the elementary school’s PTA said students have long tried to climb onto school roofs in Fairfax County.
The parents of the 15-year-old who was with Bennett said their son felt “pins and needles” throughout his body as he scaled the building and began to realize there was an electric current running through the water.
A moment later, the family said, the boy received a strong electrical shock and was blown off the structure.
The family said the 15-year-old fell about 10 to 12 feet to the ground. The other boys rushed to help the teen, who was unconscious. Bennett became entangled in electrical wires and was electrocuted, they said.
The Rills said police told them that a preliminary investigation found that the teens had been climbing a chain-link fence next to the school and using a wire that ran along the building’s wall as a foothold in an attempt to gain access to the roof. At some point, one of the teens dislodged the wire and fell. As he tried to reach his friend, Bennett was electrocuted.
Fairfax County police declined to comment on either account, but they said officers were called to the school shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday. Police said that Bennett was pronounced dead at the scene and that the three other boys were taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital with injuries not deemed life-threatening.
Police said it’s unlikely that any charges will be filed because the teens did not enter the school or try to cause damage.
John Torre, a spokesman for the county schools, said officials are “continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding this very tragic event.” He said security personnel do not typically patrol most schools after hours.