North Hall Middle School has an empty seat and many aching hearts this week after a sixth-grader there died from injuries sustained in a wreck Wednesday morning.
Gabriel McCollum, 11, died at 10:43 a.m. Thursday at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, according to Hall County Coroner Marion Merck.
One of his brothers also was flown to Children's Healthcare, which would not release his condition.
Two other brothers and his mother, identified by Georgia State Patrol as Sabrina McCollum, were treated at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and released Thursday, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
Patrol officials do not release the names of children involved in wrecks but said they were ages 8, 7 and 5.
The wreck happened at 7:42 a.m. at Mount Vernon and Jim Hood roads as the family was on the way to school, officials said.
Extra counselors were on hand at the middle school, where Gabriel McCollum has attended for about three weeks, according to Principal Brad Brown. The family moved into the North Hall community this summer, he said.
"The teachers who had him and knew him loved him as a student and said he was a very polite and respectful young man," Brown said.
He added that the school has seen an outpouring of love from the community through phone calls and emails.
The family said Gabriel loved school and helping people, Brown said.
A memorial fund has been set up at Mountain Valley Community Bank in North Hall, according to Hall County school officials. Anyone wishing to make a donation to the family may do so at the bank at 5140 Cleveland Highway or at North Hall Middle or Mount Vernon Elementary School where his brothers attend.
"The kids have handled it very well. A lot of them have been very emotional and they certainly have a right to be because he will definitely be missed," said Brown, who visited each of Gabriel's classrooms Thursday.
"There's an empty seat that Gabriel needs to be in ... and he's not there and we hurt for that."
Teachers likewise were coping with the loss.
"A lot of the teachers have kids, and you think, ‘Hey man, I think I'll hug my kid a little tighter this morning, a little longer,'" Brown said.
Georgia State Patrol officials said Sabrina McCollum was driving a 1978 Ford pickup truck carrying the five people when she went off the road and hit a tree.
She was cited for child restraint and seat belt violations, and officials believe no one was wearing a seat belt.
Patrol officials are not sure what caused the wreck and said that, due to head injuries, Sabrina McCollum does not remember what happened.
The truck did not have power steering and may not have been her usual vehicle, a spokesman added.
The wreck was the third in two days involving serious injuries.
A wreck Tuesday morning on McEver Road at Gould Road killed Ehsanul Haque, 57, of Gainesville and seriously injured two others.
Layla Pervin, 34, and Monia Samantha Hossain, 9, both of Gainesville, were treated at Northeast Georgia Medical and were not listed at the hospital Thursday.
Another wreck Tuesday morning at Friendship Road seriously injured a father and his two children. They were each taken to Atlanta hospitals, which would not release their conditions.