Family, friends and those who were touched by the life of Mackinley “Mack” Waters were still stunned Monday by the tragic, unexpected death of the intelligent, warm and loving 13-year-old Midway Middle School student, who was killed in an ATV accident Friday evening.
“It has been a difficult few days,” admitted Midway Middle principal John Goode, who bravely tried to explain the tragedy to the entire student body Monday morning, hours before Waters’ funeral. “It was very emotional … I was choking up myself. Mack was just an outstanding young man.”
According to the N.C. Highway Patrol, Waters was killed after he was ejected from a Polaris utility vehicle while riding with friends on a field path on private property, located just .19 mile north of Hollerin’ Road in the northern part of the county. The accident happened around 7:40 p.m. Friday.
Reports show that Waters was riding in the center seat of the vehicle, while 12-year-old Caegan Jackson drove and 13-year-old Carson Best was seated to the right of Waters. The vehicle lost control on a curve, ejecting Waters, and then rolled over, flipping on top of the young man, killing Waters instantly.
None of the boys were wearing seatbelts or helmets, officials said. Best and Jackson were treated at the scene for minor injuries.
Left in the wake of the tragedy were friends and loved ones who found it hard to come to grips with the loss of a life filled with so much talent and promise.
Friends quickly began a support page on Facebook, that quickly brought in over 1,300 followers and had open comments to share their feelings about the loss of their friend. Some who didn’t know Waters even posted their love and support for those who did know him.
It was actions which made the Midway Middle principal proud.
“Everyone grieves differently. I saw the Facebook page, which I was happy to see,” he said. “That is why we wanted to call everyone in this morning to the gym and just talk to the students about him and let them know it is OK to grieve.”
Extra counselors were on hand at the school Monday, as well as local clergy and three grief counselors from the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office.
“We wanted to make sure that if the students needed to talk with someone, they would be there,” Goode explained. “Everyone has got to find some closure when a tragedy like this happens and we want to make sure that they know it is OK to be emotional.”
Goode also shared some memories about Waters with the students. “You know, in addition to him being a very bright student who was on the honor roll all year and a very talented football player, he was an office assistant. He would help us out here in the office by doing things. He was very helpful and a very responsible young man. He loved the school and loved being here.”
The principal said Waters had recently returned to the Midway district after a move last year. “His father was telling me that coming back here last year was the happiest he had seen him in a while,” Goode noted. “He was happy to be back with the friends he grew up with and that is what I told the kids this morning. They all had a part in him being happy and he had a part in making us happy. I wanted them to focus on that.”
Most of the students attended the funeral Monday morning, including the entire Midway Middle School football team. Waters was a wide receiver. Soccer and volleyball games scheduled for Monday afternoon were rescheduled for Wednesday at 3 p.m.; the football game was rescheduled for Thursday.
“We were well represented at the funeral,” Goode added. “A number of our students went to pay their respects to Mack and his family.”
In addition, Midway Middle students signed goodbye banners to Mack and a support banner for the family, as well as prayer ribbons that were being hung on trees for the young man.
“We wanted to follow the old Native American tradition of signing the ribbons that will hang on the trees so that the wind will blow the messages to Mack,” explained Goode.
Through those messages, and in the hearts of those who know him, Mack’s legacy will continue to live on.
To reach Doug Clark call 910-592-8137 ext. 123 or email to email@example.com.