Burbank High football player's death ruled suicide
Matthew Smyser, 17, 'a truly good kid,' died at his family home Tuesday night.
Burbank High School students and faculty gather by candlelight on campus to mourn the loss of Matthew Smyser on Thursday, March 8, 2012. Smyser took his own life at his home Tuesday night. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
The student was identified by Los Angeles County coroner's officials as 17-year-old Matthew Smyser. The official cause of death was released Thursday.
Burbank Unified officials were notified of the death Wednesday morning by the Los Angeles Mayor's Crisis Response Team, Supt. Stan Carrizosa said. District grief counselors were immediately deployed to the school, where they remained all week.
Burbank High School football coach Hector Valencia said Matthew, who played wide receiver and linebacker on the varsity squad, was “very popular on campus.”
“He was very friendly and was polite with a great deal of character. He also had a lot of integrity,” Valencia said of the high school junior. “He was very positive and he was a kid that you could trust.”
The suicide follow just weeks after a sophomore jumped to his death at Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta.
Matthew had attended Village Christian School in eighth grade, and Alemany High School in ninth grade before enrolling at Burbank High School last year, according to Burbank Unified officials.
District counselors identified the student's close friends and teachers and will work with them on an ongoing basis, Carrizosa said.
In a message posted on the school's website Wednesday, Principal Hani Youssef said officials were “addressing the thoughts, feelings and general well-being of our students and staff while they are in school.”
“We had social and emotional support throughout the day,” Carrizosa said. “The kids were able to come in and talk and listen, there were some opportunities to write and express their feelings, and really to have a day to reflect and process what happened.”
Matthew's mother had been diagnosed with cancer last year, Carrizosa said. Matthew did not have any siblings enrolled in the district, Carrizosa added.
The situation has been a shock and a tragedy for the entire school community, officials said.
“We won't remember him so much for what he did on the football field but what he did as a person,” Valencia said. “We want to remember all the good things about him. He was a truly good kid.”