GV mourns loss of student

GVL / Eric Coulter
Friends of Shane Welch comfort eachother during the candle lit vigil

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GVL / Eric Coulter Friends of Shane Welch comfort eachother during the candle lit vigil

Shane Peoples-Welch, a 21-year-old Grand Valley State University junior, died Tuesday night while playing basketball with friends at the on-campus Recreation Center in Allendale.

The GVSU Police Department was called to the scene at 6 p.m. after Peoples-Welch complained of chest pains and then fainted while taking a break from playing. Recreation Center staff called an ambulance and were already performing CPR on Peoples-Welch when police arrived on the scene. Officers used the facility’s defibrillator but were unable to revive Peoples-Welch. Advanced resuscitation efforts by EMS paramedics were also unsuccessful.

Recreation Center director Brad Wallace expressed sadness at the loss of one of GVSU’s own.

“First our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends,” he said. “We are all saddened for their loss. I am very thankful for the support we received from the Department of Public Safety, the medical personnel on scene and the GVSU Counseling Center.”

Despite being under intense and sudden stress at the situation unfolding before them, Wallace said Recreation Center staff remained calm and did all they could to assist in the efforts to save Peoples-Welch’s life.

According to an initial report by the Ottawa County Medical Examiner, it appears Peoples-Welch died of natural causes. However, it will take several weeks to complete a full report and toxicology screening. GVSU police said they do not suspect any foul play in his death.

Peoples-Welch, a native of Saginaw, Mich., was studying public administration in GVSU’s College of Community and Public Service. He also worked part-time for GVSU Pew Campus Security.

“It clearly came as a real unexpected tragedy that landed on all of us, and so we’re in the process of trying to work through with family and friends to provide support and assistance and extend our heartfelt sympathies to Shane’s family,” said Bart Merkle, dean of students.

Merkle said Counseling Center staff have been made available to help any students impacted by Peoples-Welch’s passing. Any students interested in speaking with a counselor are advised to contact the Counseling Center at 616-331-3266.

“One of the things that you always are concerned about when you have an unexpected tragedy that happens like this is that it can sometimes cause other losses that people have experienced to resurface in very emotional ways,” Merkle said. “Grieving is a very individual thing and it can kind of wash over people, so we’re trying to be aware of others in the community who may be experiencing kind of emotional distress that has been stimulated by this tragedy but related to something else in their life.”

Students gathered around the Cook-Carillon clock tower last night at 9:30 p.m. for a candlelight vigil in People-Welch’s honor, where President Thomas J. Haas spoke.

“It’s important for us to gather here tonight, because indeed we have lost a family member,” Haas said. “So let’s go forward with him in our hearts and with his family in our hearts and remember his legacy – because he has made a difference.”

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