Child dies in choking accident
Rodrigo Espana of Waitsburg was apparently attempting a self-strangulation trick.
By Maria P. Gonzalez of the Union-Bulletin
</SCRIPT> A 10-year-old Waitsburg boy died accidentally Saturday afternoon after attempting a self-strangulation trick, authorities said.Rodrigo Espana of 705 Maple St. made a makeshift noose of cloth, tied it around his neck and hung it from the bunk beds in the bedroom he shared with his 4-year-old brother, said Walla Walla County Sheriff Mike Humphreys.
Rodrigo and his brother were home alone while his mother and 7-year-old sister attended a school play about 1:30 p.m. Their father, an employee at Broetje Orchards, was working that day.
Authorities received report of the boy's death about 4 p.m.
Humphreys said Rodrigo had been attempting a strangulation trick that is being used by children across the country.
In the ``choking game,'' children attempt to strangle themselves enough to become light-headed and pass out temporarily. The ``game'' has claimed many lives.
Humphreys said Rodrigo had recently watched a television program on it and had told his younger siblings never to try it. Despite the warning to his brother and sister, Rodrigo may have decided to experiment anyway, Humphreys said.
The 4-year-old boy was able to cut his brother down, and the boys' mother arrived shortly and called paramedics. But Rodrigo had already died.
Humphreys visited schools this morning to help quell rumors that the boy had committed suicide or that a murder had occurred.
``It was strictly an accidental death,'' he said. Teachers gathered early this morning and counselors were brought in to help students and staff deal with the boy's death.
Rodrigo was a fifth-grade student at Waitsburg Elementary. He would have turned 11 the day after Christmas.
The Espana family suffered another loss earlier this year, when Leodegario Silva Ortiz, 53, died Nov. 1 after losing control on State Route 124. Ortiz, a Touchet resident, was Rodrigo's grandfather. Humphreys said the sheriff's office would be donating money to the family left over from the agency's Shop With a Cop event this weekend.
Town rallies for family, classmates of child
By Carrie Chicken of the Union-Bulletin
</SCRIPT> Waitsburg Elementary staff and students were grieving today as they tried to make sense of the Saturday death of fifth-grader Rodrigo Espana, who would have celebrated his 11th birthday Dec. 26.School Superintendent and elementary Principal Carol Clarke met with staff and Sheriff Mike Humphreys at 7:30 a.m. Humphreys went over the facts of the accident, Clarke said.
Clarke learned of Rodrigo's death Saturday night at a basketball game that was attended by a number of his classmates. Clarke gathered parents together and told them what had happened, then the fifth-graders were told.
Mike Ferrians, pastor of the First Christian Church, met with the children, and encouraged them to offer memories of Rodrigo.
Ferrians and two other local pastors were among counselors available to students at the school today.
Children are struggling, Clarke said. ``His class is doing as well as can be expected. We've got a lot of parents surrounding them with loving, caring support,'' she said.
Clarke said Rodrigo has been a student at Waitsburg Elementary School since second grade. He was active in the after-school program, and a number of high school students also know him because they work as mentors with younger students.
``In a community that's small you know everyone, and something that happens like this makes you realize everyone is important,'' Clarke said.
Although he was not an A student, Rodrigo ``did his very best,'' Clarke said.
Clarke said Rodrigo was responsible for getting his younger sister to school, and ``he took that responsibility very seriously.''
She recalled a time his sister was afraid to cross the bridge on Preston Avenue, and Rodrigo carried her across.
``He got her to school,'' Clarke said. Students in Rodrigo's class will work together to complete the gift Rodrigo was making for his parents, and present it to them, Clarke said.
His parents will also receive a translated version of notes students will write to Rodrigo on poster paper, Clarke said.