HARTFORD, S.D. (KELO) – Friends and family are in mourning after a 4th grader from the West Central School District died from flu-related complications.
According to the latest report from the South Dakota Department of Health, there have been seven flu-related deaths as of February 8. All of those deaths were people over the age of 50.
Sheena Ockenga and her family have lived in the Hartford area for about 5 years. She says her son and Rylon were good friends.
“Rylon was one of the first little boys to befriend my son Braden and they go to school together, they quickly became close friends, and they have a close friend group,” friend of the family, Sheena Ockenga said.
She says 10-year old Rylon was always smiling.
“Always happy, always living his best life, loved hanging out with his buddies and was always kind to everybody, and a good example of his mother, too, she was always going out of her way for anybody and he would do the same,” Ockenga said.
“You feel so helpless when everything is out of our hands, their hands, one thing we thought about was helping release some of the financial stress and getting them time to mourn and grieve and not have to worry about all the expenses,” Ockenga said. “You hear the statistics, it’s flu season, it’s on the news, but it never really hits home like it has, it could have been anyone of these boys, our own boys, never expect it to be your little boy’s best friend,” Ockenga said.
Ockenga says it’s great to see so many people willing to help out with the GoFundMe.
West Central School District superintendent Brad Berens says the school has emergency plans in place when a tragedy like this happens.
“We had our crisis management team meet and put together a plan to share information with students, how to help them through this time if they are struggling, and also sharing information with staff so they understand what has happened,” Brad Berens said.
Berens said a letter was sent out to staff and parents.