School shuts as staff mourn tragic loss

Joel Eager
Joel Eager

A SCHOOL will be closed today as staff attend the funeral of a colleague’s son who died in a tragic boating accident.

Joel Eager, 21, a former Weald School, Billingshurst, student, died in hospital on Sunday July 3 two days after falling overboard from a rigid inflatable boat and suffering a serious head injury in waters at Chichester Harbour.

His mother Jane Eager works at William Penn School, Coolham, as its business manager.

A letter to parents from Margaret King-Tours, chair of the governing body, said: “After careful consideration, the governing body of William Penn School has taken the decision to close the school, for the day, on Thursday 14th July 2011. The school will be open as usual on Friday 15th July.

“Many members of staff knew Joel Eager personally and have expressed the desire to pay their respects at his funeral. It is, therefore, apparent that there will be insufficient staff left to keep the school operating on that day. The governing body is mindful of the inconvenience this may cause and will be very grateful for your understanding in these saddest of circumstances. We would like to thank you for your understanding at this difficult time.”

In a letter on July 4 head teacher Stephen Kear told parents: “It is with great sorrow that I must tell you that Mrs Eager’s son Joel has died in a tragic boating accident this weekend. Joel was 21 and just home from completing his degree. I was able to spend some time with Jane, her husband Ross and their two daughters Ella and Holly last night and they continue to try and make sense of their loss with such bravery, illustrating what a remarkable family they are.

“As you know, William Penn is a close knit community and Jane and her family are hugely popular and well known to all the staff. We will be pulling together to support the Eager family, and each other, in times to come and would ask for your patience as we all take on aspects of Jane’s multi-faceted role in her absence. Our aim is that the learning experiences for your children will not be affected.

“I am sure that you will join me in sending all our thoughts and best wishes to Jane, Ross, Ella and Holly.”

In a tribute to him Joel’s family said: “We are naturally devastated over the loss of Joel, who was fatally injured in a freak boating accident in Chichester Harbour.

“Joel had returned home having just graduated from Exeter University. He was an extremely gifted and intelligent young man in the prime of life.

“Our consolation is that he was enjoying the ‘perfect day’ in the company of close friends; he was poised to embrace a brilliant future, in every aspect of his full life; he was dearly loved by every one of us; and he did not suffer at all.”