Child who died in accident remembered for manners, smile

Published 2:47 pm Thursday, January 2, 2014

Brandon Burr (left) and Adrian Chiquito (right) played football together this fall, and were close friends. Submitted photo

Brandon Burr (left) and Adrian Chiquito (right) played football together this fall, and were close friends. Submitted photo

Over the past few days, members of the Brandywine community have shared their memories of 12-year-old Adrian Chiquito. The descriptions have varied from person to person, but everyone seems to agree on one thing: He never stopped smiling.

Chiquito, 12, died in a car accident in the early morning hours of Dec. 31. He was the passenger in the vehicle a friend, Brandon Burr, 14, was driving on Bertrand Road in Milton Twp., Cass County, authorities say. Burr lost control of the vehicle and struck a tree. Chiquito was pronounced dead at the scene. Burr was transported to Memorial Hospital and was reported to be in critical condition Tuesday.

Where they were going and how they got access to a car when neither were old enough to drive remains unknown. But what is certain is the impact this tragic event has had on those who know the youth.

“I found out (Tuesday) morning. I was just sick to my stomach thinking of the kids. It happens every day, but when it comes to your own community, it just really hits hard,” said Jason Duval, head coach of the Brandywine Middle School football program. Duval has coached Burr, an 8th grader, for the last two seasons, and Chiquito, a 7th grader, last fall.

“When I got the first indication that Adrian was gone, I was waiting for the next text that said, ‘oh hang on a second. That’s not right. He’s fine,’” said Erick Szilagyi, defensive coach for the 7th grade. Chiquito played defensive tackle.

“Obviously with the name Chiquito — I always try to find a nickname for the players. He wound up being Chiquita Banana. He never took it bad, just got a big ol’ smile on his face,” Szilagyi said. “He was very coachable. I looked forward to coaching him next year.”

“It’s devastating news. You never want to hear that as a parent, especially when you see these kids five days a week for endless weeks. You take it for granted. You think there’s going to be another year to yell at them. You don’t know what to say. My heart goes out to the parents,” Szilagyi said.

Szilagyi and Duval both have children of their own and have decided to be open with them about the situation.

“We try to teach the right decisions and making the right choices. Everyone makes mistakes in life, and unfortunately in this decision, a young kid lost his life,” Duval said.

“My first call was to them (Tuesday) night, telling them, ‘wherever you’re going for New Years, when you get there, you’re there. Stay where you’re at,’” Szilagyi said. “I was real matter-of-fact with them. I let them know what happened.”

John Schulte, a 7th grade English teacher at Brandywine Middle/Sr. High School, plans to take the same approach when his students return on Monday.

“I’m just going to face it head on. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be fun,” Schulte said. “It’s going to do what a lot of these things do, which is just unfortunately provide everyone with the fragility of life, and how quickly things can be taken from them with no rhyme or reason.”

Schulte said he is sure that the school and the community will put together some sort of memorial for Chiquito. According to a statement released by the administration at Brandywine Community Schools, grief counselors will be on hand when students return from winter break Monday.

“What I’ve always been told about grief is that you have to share it,” Schulte said. “The moment that you believe it’s just you, it’s too heavy. It’s not about comparing scars. It’s not ‘I hurt more than you do.’ It’s sharing the pain.”

Schulte had Burr last year as a student, and Chiquito was in the 7th grade English class this year.

“He was just a well-adjusted, smiling kid. He got my sense of humor, and not a lot of kids do,” Schulte said. “He was one of those kids that was sort of finding their way in 7th grade. The sky’s the limit for kids like that.

“It was too short, too short for a kid that didn’t really have marks for or against him. It wasn’t like he was a discipline case,” Schulte said. “He was just a regular 7th grade kid that was just happy to be there. That in itself is a win. He had no, there was no plus or minus. There was no record against him. He could have done anything with his life. The future was totally unmapped.”

Officials at Memorial Hospital are unable to report whether or not Burr is still being treated at that location, and an updated condition was unavailable as of Thursday.

“I certainly hope that Burr’s injuries, he can overcome them and go back to having a good, full life,” Szilagyi said.