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Central Catholic students mourn classmate

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BRIGHTON — Students at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence are mourning the death of a classmate who was killed in a snowmobile accident in Andover.

Brian Desalvo, a 16-year-old junior, died on Jan. 29 after the snowmobile he was driving hit a friend’s snowmobile from behind, and he was thrown from the vehicle. He was flown to a Boston hospital but went into cardiac arrest while being treated and could not be revived, said the high school’s principal, David M. DeFillippo.

Desalvo was an “amiable, quiet and unassuming kid” with a “ready smile,” DeFillippo said.

"He was a very hard working, solid achiever in the college-prep program of studies," he added.

Desalvo’s interests included art and baseball, DeFillippo said. He won an art contest this fall for the student theater company’s playbill and promotional posters. He played baseball in Lawrence for many years and was a big Red Sox fan.

Desalvo also loved the ocean and the beach, especially during the summertime when he would go fishing and lobstering. He spent time with his parents and younger sister near the shore, said DeFillippo.

Most of the students and faculty at Central Catholic found out about the snowmobile accident on Monday morning, Jan. 31, DeFillippo said.

DeFillippo called the school’s crisis team on Sunday, and they met Monday morning in order to implement support for teachers and classmates, he said. The crisis team consists of administrators, campus ministers, the director of guidance and the Trauma Intervention Program — an organization of volunteer grief counselors that helps families and communities process grief and mourning.

The entire faculty of the school was contacted before the announcement was made to the student body, so teachers would be prepared to deal with grief felt by students. Students had the opportunity to meet with counselors in quiet spaces set up throughout the school, DeFillippo said.

"Monday was a real, kind of, shock and awe day," he said. "We got through that day, and got through that day probably as well as you can."

After each day, the crisis team met to plan for the next in order to help students get back to their normal routine.

The grief counselors offered students the opportunity to attend the wake on Feb. 2 and funeral on Feb. 3. They also told students what to expect in case they had never attended a funeral before. About 200 of Desalvo’s classmates elected to attend.

"When something like this happens, it reverberates throughout the school," said DeFillippo. "We'll move forward with school on a regular basis and hope that the comfort of a structure, things they're familiar with and the support of their friends and teachers will help them to move forward. We're confident that will happen. It's a very, very supportive community."

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