Former classmates remember Ostberg

Jan 25 2012 - 7:28am

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(SCOTT SCHWEBKE Standard-Examiner) (From left) Caitelin Olive, Carter Menlove and Jordan Caywood, students at Bear River Middle School, discuss the death of former student Robby Ostberg.
(Contributed photo) Robby Ostberg
(SCOTT SCHWEBKE Standard-Examiner) (From left) Caitelin Olive, Carter Menlove and Jordan Caywood, students at Bear River Middle School, discuss the death of former student Robby Ostberg.
(Contributed photo) Robby Ostberg

GARLAND -- Wearing their best dress clothes as a symbol of respect, a half-dozen solemn ninth-graders gathered Tuesday in a small office at Bear River Middle School to grieve the death of a former classmate.

Fourteen-year-old Robby Ostberg died Monday morning after accidentally shooting himself in the head with a miniature cannon at his home in the 400 block of Tremont Street in Tremonton.

Ostberg hadn't attended Bear River Middle School for 10 months, but the students who gathered around a table outside a guidance counselor's office said their fond recollections of him remain fresh.

Some of the students seemed on the verge of tears as they described Ostberg as shy, tolerant and mechanically gifted.

"He loved to fix stuff," said Cameron Kunsman, who described Ostberg as his best friend. "My dad gave him a chain saw that didn't work. Robby had it running."

When Ostberg wasn't repairing things, he was pursuing another passion -- playing video games.

One of Ostberg's favorites was the war-simulation game "Call of Duty," said Alexander Thompson, another Bear River Middle School student.

Coincidentally, Ostberg was playing video games in his living room and was holding the miniature cannon when it went off, causing a projectile to strike him in the head, killing him, said Tremonton Police Chief David Nance.

Police still hadn't determined Tuesday why the cannon discharged or the type of projectile that was fired.

It is hoped that an autopsy will shed light on exactly how Ostberg was killed, Nance has said.

The cannon is described as an 18th-century replica with a 6-inch-long .50 caliber barrel and a wooden base.

Lucille Hertel said the death of her grandson is a tragic accident.

"It (the cannon) probably wasn't doing what he wanted it to do, and it went off," she said Monday night.

She said Ostberg was extremely mechanical and could fix everything from lawnmowers to cars.

Some of the students said Tuesday that Ostberg was known to remove gunpowder from shotgun shells. Police have not said if the cannon that killed him was loaded with gunpowder.

The news of Ostberg's death spread quickly Monday through Bear River Middle School.

"When I heard about it, my heart just sank," Kunsman said.

Jordan Caywood, another ninth-grader, said she was shocked to learn of Ostberg's death and had a hard time keeping her emotions in check.

"I started to cry," she said.

Caywood said Ostberg tended to be shy in large groups, while Caitelin Olive recalled Ostberg wouldn't retaliate against other students who said bad things about him.

"He treated everyone with respect," Olive said. "If someone dissed on him, he would take it as a compliment."

Charcy Firth, who also attends the middle school, said she heard from several students after Ostberg's death that they were sorry about being mean to him.

"Maybe it (Ostberg's death) helps to realize that you've got to be nice to people, because you never know when they will be gone," she said.

Matt Zollinger, a counselor at Bear River Middle School, said Ostberg's absence from the school has helped students deal with his death.

"It (the impact) is somewhat lessened," he said.

In late 2010, Ostberg had some health issues that caused him to miss school and fall behind in classwork, said Principal Eldon Petersen.

Ostberg was officially unenrolled from the school in March 2011 because of his lack of attendance and didn't register for the 2011-12 school year, said Petersen, who didn't know if Ostberg was being home-schooled.

Ostberg lived in Tremonton with his father and older brother, while his mother resides in West Valley City, he said.

If Ostberg had been attending Bear River Middle School on Monday, he would have likely been on his way to class at the time the accident occurred, Petersen said.

"If he had been here, maybe that wouldn't have happened."

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