GOSHEN — It was a quiet night at the Fairfield Junior/Senior High School football game Friday. A hushed murmur hung over the bleachers throughout the evening.
“Everybody is still in shock,” said a parent who declined to give his name. “It hasn’t sunken in yet, and I think we must take the time to think about it.”
Students, faculty and parents were told about senior Matthew Simmons’ death Friday morning, Aug. 30.
The school’s staff assembled a crisis team before school, and later called the senior class to inform them.
Simmons, 17, of Millersburg, was struck and killed by a train early Friday morning near C.R. 42. A railroad officer called 911 at about 12:27 a.m., shortly after the teen was hit.
The Elkhart County coroner ruled the death a suicide.
Trent Hostetler, who works as an announcer for the football games, said the team opted to play Friday night after they were given the news about Simmons’ death. Simmons was a member of the football team his freshman and sophomore years.
The team spread the word, telling those who planned on going to the game to wear white in memory of Simmons. The teams and audience also had a moment of silence before kickoff.
“It was a tough day for students and staff,” Hostetler said. “The players seem to have been affected, too. There’s not as much emotion tonight.”
Simmons was close to many of the football players, Hostetler said. In fact, those who knew him said described him as friendly, outgoing and a good role model.
Simmons maintained a 4.0 grade point average and excelled in physics. He was also a member of the school wrestling team and had a job at the Lincolnway Mart in Goshen.
Hadyn Rivera, a Goshen High School student who was friends with Simmons, said the two met only a few months ago.
Within a few days of meeting each other they became good friends, inviting each other to bonfires a couple times this summer.
“He was always happy. And he seemed to care about others. He was always encouraging,” Rivera said.
Taylor King, a Fairfield sophomore and Simmons’ friend, said it was a rough day for many at school. Some friends put up a piece of paper on Simmons’ locker and several students signed it throughout the day. The hallways were quiet most of the day, King said.
“It was a really long day,” she said. “Everyone was crying.”
King and Simmons grew up together while sharing a babysitter.
“He always had a compliment for everyone,” she said. “He was a sweetheart. He’ll be missed here in Fairfield.”