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Adirondack Daily Enterprise
By REBECCA STEFFAN, Enterprise Staff Writer Top of page
Posted on: Sunday, May 6, 2007
PAUL SMITHS — The bodies of two Paul Smith’s College students
from Vermont have been found after a search that began after their canoe
capsized late Friday night on Lower St. Regis Lake, near the campus.
REBECCA ROBINSON, Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 8
MANCHESTER — News that a 2004 Burr and Burton Academy graduate was one of two Paul Smith's College students who drowned in a canoe accident late Friday has plunged the local community into a state of mourning.
Sean Cornell, 20, of Manchester Center, had gone with five other students at Paul Smith's, located in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, to Lower St. Regis Lake around 11 p.m. Friday night.
According to reports posted on the Paul Smith's Web site, the young men were going out to an island in the lake to make a bonfire in celebration of their last day of classes. They took two canoes out on the frigid lake to reach the island, but the two boats capsized about 100 yards away from the shore.
Four of the students swam to shore; Cornell and Lee Walker, 19, of Enosburg Falls, drowned. Walker's body was recovered by divers late Saturday afternoon, and a New York State Police scuba team found Cornell's body on Sunday.
"Our entire community is deeply saddened by this loss," Paul Smith's President John Mills said in a statement Sunday. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of both these young men."
"We're responding with great pain," BBA Head Master Charles Scranton said Monday. "We had remarks made at this morning's assembly, followed by a profound moment of silence."
Scranton and other administrators are insuring that psychological services are available for those students who have been affected by news of Cornell's death.
"We're providing counseling for those kids there who need it and responding as we see fit," said Scranton. "There are people here that knew him well, or siblings of kids that were in Sean's class ... it's had a huge impact."
Compounding the tragedy for Scranton is the fact that his family and the Cornells are next-door neighbors.
"I knew Sean well, in several different capacities," said Scranton, "and he was just a wonderful kid. Sean loved life, he loved people, and most of all he loved the outdoors."
Cornell went to Paul Smith's to study forestry and would have graduated with an associate's degree in urban tree management next week.
Brooks Brown, Cornell's stepfather, spoke Monday about the ordeal he and his wife and Cornell's mother, Mimi Brown, had endured over the past 48 hours.
"The Manchester Police Department came to our door at 5:45 a.m. Saturday, woke us up," said Brooks Brown. After telling the Browns about the accident, the police advised them to call the school.
"I spoke to the president, who said that the state police at sunrise were bringing in a helicopter. ...They'd done a perimeter sweep by the shore and found nothing. They were putting dog teams in, doing a land search, and, later, would be bringing in dive teams," said Brooks Brown. "He also said that they had switched from rescue to recovery mode. At that point, we called our family, and ... we headed up to Paul Smith's."
After being briefed by the administration, the Browns and Cornell's father, Gavin Cornell, went down to the lake's shoreline and waited. At 5 p.m., Walker's body was found and, shortly thereafter, the search was suspended due to waning sunlight.
"By then, we decided we needed to be back in the comfort of our own homes, with our families," said Brooks Brown. Back in Manchester Center, many friends and family members gathered to grieve and offer each other support.
"They're coming from everywhere," said Denise Cornell, Sean's stepmother. "Some of (Sean's high school classmates) are coming from California, from Virginia, even from Spain to be here for his family.
"There's been an outpouring in the surrounding community ... it's a real affirmation of who he was," said Denise Cornell.
Brooks Brown said Sean was an avid lacrosse player and an all-star football receiver who also enjoyed spelunking in his spare time.
"He was just a regular guy who took what life dealt him and made that into an extraordinary life and made himself, in the process, into an extraordinary person," said Brooks Brown.
There will be a public memorial service Friday at 2 p.m. at the Southern Vermont Arts Center. Additionally, the Browns and Cornells are setting up a memorial scholarship fund at BBA in Sean's name.
"It's a perpetual fund," said Brooks Brown. "We're going to ask people to make a commitment to contribute on a yearly basis to that fund."
The BBA men's lacrosse team will be wearing Sean's retired number "19" on their helmets for rest of year.Rebecca Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
MANCHESTER — The death of Sean W. Cornell was caused by an accidental drowning, according to Franklin County Coroner Richard Keough.
Cornell, 20, of Manchester, was one of two students at Paul Smith's College in New York who died after falling into Lower St. Regis Lake on Friday night. It was the last day of classes for the semester at Paul Smith's.
Cornell and Lee Walker, 18, of Enosburg Falls, were with four other students when their canoes overturned just off shore from the small college's campus in the Adirondack Mountains of Northeastern New York.
Cornell's body was found Sunday and Walker was found on Saturday afternoon. Some of the other four students were treated after returning to shore, but none was seriously injured.
Cornell graduated from Burr and Burton Academy in 2004 as part of the school's largest graduating class.
On Monday, students, some of whom attended school with Cornell, were told of his death at a morning assembly.
"The tone at school today has been really down. I think that's a sign of how popular Sean was that he was out of school for a few years and the news still had that kind of affect," said Assistant Headmaster Steven Houghton.
Houghton, who was one of Cornell's coaches in football, remembered him as a "rough and tumble, hard-nosed player" in football and lacrosse.
Cornell was a star athlete at Burr and Burton who was named to a Division III All-Star second team in 2002 as a wide receiver and in 2003 to the first team as a kicker and second team again as a wide receiver.
Houghton said he was a "tremendously gifted kicker" who had a "booming leg."
Cornell was also a midfielder on the Burr and Burton Bulldog's state champion lacrosse teams in 2002 and 2003.
"He was really aggressive. He was like our bull out there," said Gunner Tuttle, a senior from Dorset, who played as a freshman alongside Cornell.
Kathi Bierwirth, athletic director at Burr and Burton, said Cornell had a reputation for being able to come up with the ball on the team.
The boys lacrosse team recognized a moment of silence before their game on Monday against Greenwich, N.Y.
Bierwirth said many of the players plan to honor Cornell by wearing the number 19 on their helmets until at least the end of the season in June.
Houghton and Bierwirth said Cornell had been very popular at the school. "That entire senior class was such a great group of kids. It was a big circle of friends and Sean was always at the middle of it," Bierwirth said.
A memorial service is scheduled for Friday at Southern Vermont Arts Center. The center's director, Christopher Madkour, said the service was being hosted for family and close friends.
Contact Patrick McArdle at email@example.com
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