The East Hampton community reacted with shock and dismay this week when word spread of the apparent suicide of a 16-year-old East Hampton High School student on Saturday. East Hampton Town police, who received a call a little after 9 p.m., found David H. Hernandez at his family’s house on Wooded Oak Lane. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
“We received a report of an unconscious, unresponsive male,” Detective Lt. Christopher Anderson said on Tuesday.
As many as 750 people were estimated at a wake, and almost 450 signed the guest book, at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton on Tuesday night, in a show of sympathy and support for his grieving family. The parking lot was full, and cars were parked up and down Pantigo Road.
A long line of friends, teachers, students, and school district officials waited in silence to enter the funeral home. A meeting of the East Hampton School Board Tuesday night was cut short to allow members to attend. David’s photograph was posted at the entrance to the funeral home, with his name in large, plain type. Inside, the sound of a woman’s sobbing filled the air.
The town police log registered the Saturday night call as an “attempted suicide.” Detective Anderson said there did “not appear to have been any foul play.”
In response to comment in the community that David was a victim of bullying at school, the detective said, “We have no actual information to support that theory.” He declined to add further details, saying, “As in any death investigation, it takes an amount of time to make a final determination on the cause of death.” The body was taken to the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office.
On Monday, Adam S. Fine, the high school principal, addressed potential emotional distress among students, reading a statement that said, “Please remember. You always have people who care about you here at the high school. . . . Please let your classroom teacher know or any adult in the building if you feel you need to talk to anyone.”
On Tuesday afternoon, representatives of Joe’s Project, an organization that supports those affected by suicide, met with students. Approximately 91 attended.
Tuesday night’s school board meeting had begun with 30 seconds of silence, after which Richard Burns, district superintendent, read a statement that had been posted on the district’s Web site.
“This has been a tragedy. We are grieving for David, his family, and the community. We are continuing our thorough evaluation of this sad and complex situation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”
Earlier in the day, a quickly organized bake sale by students and faculty raised $4,400 for the family.
The school observed a moment of silence yesterday morning, and has set up a memorial wall for flowers and tributes.
A funeral Mass was said Wednesday morning at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton by the Rev. Steven Grozio of the parish’s Hispanic Apostolate.
Following the Mass, mourners gathered on the church lawn as David’s coffin was carried to a hearse by six young men. As the hearse pulled away, a woman who was identified as David’s mother collapsed in grief and was carried by two of the pall-bearers across Buell Lane. Burial was private