Amherst teen dies after ‘blackout challenge’

  • The family of Nate Squires posted this image of the 13-year-old eighth grader at Amherst Regional Middle School, who died this week, on a GoFundMe page they set up to raise money to offset expenses. The family also hopes to raise awareness about the “black out challenge” on social media platforms. Gofundme

Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2021 6:01:51 PM

AMHERST — An Amherst Regional Middle School student died this week after suffering critical injuries during an online challenge in which people choke themselves until they lose consciousness, according to a member of his family.

A public GoFundMe appeal established by a relative of Nate Squires states that the 13-year-old eighth grader, the son of Rachel Vieu and David Squires, died at a hospital Monday.

“Both Rachel and Dave want the world to know of the circumstances that surround Nate’s death to ensure that this does not happen to another family,” writes Samantha Thomas of Belchertown, the sister-in-law to Squires’ parents. “On June 12th, Nate was found unresponsive at home after attempting to do what is known on social media platforms as the ‘black out challenge.’”

The narrative at the fundraising site asks families to speak to children in their lives to talk about the dangers of the challenge.

“Tell them to reach out to an adult if they hear about someone they know attempting it. We hope Nate’s story can help you start this conversation in your home.”

The GoFundMe page aims to raise money to offset expenses the family is expected to have following the incident.

“Our entire family feels like the rug has been ripped out from under us and while Rachel and Dave have a long road ahead of them, the least we can do is try and take away any financial burdens they may face in the upcoming months as they deal with the aftermath of this nightmare.”

Previously, the family gave permission for administrators in the school district to go public with information about what happened to their son.

Superintendent Michael Morris on Monday sent emails to all families whose students are enrolled at the school informing them about the tragedy. He also made a public announcement at a joint school committee meeting that night.

“It is a tragic situation,” Morris said, adding that the incident happened outside school. “It was a significant event in our community.”

Morris said Wednesday that he recognizes the devastating loss for a family and the school.

“My heart goes out to the family and the community who knew Nate, and those who were close to him,” Morris said.

The first communication from Morris went to families when Squires was still in critical condition.

“Parents/guardians are encouraged to talk with their children tonight so they can share their questions and concerns about their classmate with you,” it read.

The district also sent home resources for families to talk to children about what happened.

Another email followed his death and informed middle school students that there would be advisory blocks to talk about their classmate.

“We believe it is important to share such information in a supportive environment where counselors and other trusted adults are available, rather than have students potentially hear the news about their classmate after school before a parent or other caregiver is available to support them,” Morris wrote.

The responsibility at the schools is to make sure that students, families and teachers and staff are getting the care they need, Morris said. “There will be a lot of mental health support for kids and adults,” Morris said.

This includes an event Thursday evening to support families using Riverside Trauma Center. Counselors are providing both on-site and virtual support services, Morris said.

A third email outlines what this session will be like: “We would like to offer a virtual space for families to talk about grief and how to support their children, as well as about what resources are available through the school and other organizations.”

Morris said additional counselors are providing support at Fort River School, where Nate Squires was a student previously, with counselors from other Amherst elementary schools and from out of district taking part.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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