Franklin High student-athlete dies

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 17, 2008

FRANKLIN-Franklin High School senior Josh Willis died this morning, school officials said.

Willis, 19, a four-year letterman in basketball and football, died at Southampton Memorial Hospital of undetermined causes. Students were dismissed from classes for the rest of the day.

Willis was at home getting ready for school when his mother, Linda, called an ambulance, school officials said. He was transported to the hospital, where he died.

FHS Athletic Director Darren Parker was called by a student and informed of Willis’ death. Parker said he went to the hospital and met with family members.

Parker said he knew of no health problems for Willis, whom Parker coached in football.

Franklin High School Principal Samuel Jones informed students and faculty on the school’s public-address system that Willis had died.

&uot;Josh was so well-liked that many students reacted with emotion,&uot; Jones said.

At 9:30, Jones dismissed students for the day. He said he expects classes to resume Thursday.

Jones said he called the school district’s central office and the regional health department to notify officials.

Buses arrived to take students home. Students also were permitted to use their cell phones to call parents for rides home.

Those without cell phones were encouraged to use the phone in the school’s main office.

The school system’s reverse 911 system, which would have alerted parents of the incident, was not functioning this morning, Jones said.

Parker said Willis &uot;had been involved with sports all of his life.&uot;

He was honored recently at the school’s fall sports banquet as Most Valuable Player for the basketball team.

Parker called him a &uot;really good kid, just a good kid.&uot;

Crisis counselors have been notified, Jones said.