Tragedy struck at the Tygarts Valley High School football game Friday night when an altercation between two male students turned deadly, Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares said.
One of the students died after being stabbed by a TVHS classmate outside the stadium, according to multiple reports and witness accounts at the scene.
Phares confirmed the fatality in an interview with The Inter-Mountain late Friday night.
Inter-Mountain photos by Andrew Davis
Members of the Tygarts Valley football team pause in prayer following their game against Hundred High. A Tygarts Valley student was stabbed to death prior to the contest.
"Prior to the start of the game tonight, two students of Tygarts Valley High School were involved in a confrontation," Phares said. "One of the students was wounded critically and did succumb to his wounds and passed away."
The incident happened about 20 minutes before kickoff in the Tygarts Valley High School and Hundred High School matchup. The start of the game was delayed and the stadium was placed on lockdown.
Prior to that, at around 7:10 p.m., several individuals could be heard yelling from inside Bulldog Field that someone had been stabbed. This prompted reaction from many who had gathered in advance of the game. An overhead announcement was made directing Tygarts Valley players to return to their locker room. Their opponent, the Hornets, had yet to take the field.
Eyewitness accounts indicate the altercation occurred in front of George Ward Elementary in the adjacent parking lot. A male was seen running from that area into the stadium and heading toward the bleachers. The individual then continued toward the graveyard and field house, and it appeared as though he was being pursued, according to reports from the scene.
West Virginia State Police were dispatched to the incident around 7:15 p.m. Troopers were using metal detectors to search the area around George Ward Elementary, according to scanner traffic through the Randolph County 911 Center. Witnesses at the scene said the search appeared to be an effort to find the weapon allegedly used in the incident, and law enforcement officials remained in the graveyard area throughout portions of the game.
Phares said the suspect was detained, and an announcement during halftime indicated an arrest was made.
The injured student was transported from the scene via ambulance by Randolph County EMS to Davis Memorial Hospital. Around 8:45 p.m., a state police communications officer stated that a medical transport helicopter was en route to Elkins. Social media reports indicate the student died before further transport could occur.
People claiming to be family members of the juvenile took to Facebook to discuss the tragedy as it unfolded. They identified the alleged victim as Dustin "Dusty" White. This information could not be confirmed by The Inter-Mountain through official outlets at presstime.
However, Karen McCauley Ray, who identified herself as White's aunt, posted the following.
"Please pray for my family. My nephew just died from being stabbed at the football game. Keep Kevin and Stacy White and their other children in your prayers. Jesus, please come back soon, we can't take much more," Ray wrote.
The posts, including the one above, prompted an outpouring of public comment. When asked about the posts, Phares said all further information would be released by Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker.
"At this juncture, the investigation is ongoing," Parker told The Inter-Mountain. "It is a juvenile matter, and everything is confidential by law."
As news of the incident spread throughout Bulldog Field, the crowd quieted, and many left at halftime - even though the game was played to its full conclusion. Some of the TVHS cheerleaders left the game at halftime. Witnesses reported the girls were visibly upset and some were seen crying.
Many members of the Bulldog football team also were seen crying as they competed against the Hornets. At the conclusion of the game, both teams gathered at midfield in a "prayer circle."
Other students played a more active role in the case. Phares said, in accordance with state policy, the school system had to contact the parents of juveniles who may have witnessed the altercation to notify them their child was being interviewed by police. It is unclear when those interviews will be completed.
Now, Phares said, the focus turns toward helping the student body process the loss of a classmate.
"Randolph County Schools will over the weekend implement the crisis management plan in order to provide support to students and to provide counseling to students who may need it," Phares said." Our thoughts and prayers go out to the parents of the student who passed away."