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For the week of July 19 through July 25, 2000

Community mourns
Cody Boyd’s death


"I just happened to run a different errand, and I came upon him."

—Boyd’s mother, Rhea Bluechel


By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer

Rhea Bluechel, left, and her son Cody Boyd. Nearly 200 people packed Hailey’s St. Charles Catholic Church in Hailey Saturday for the youngster’s memorial services. Photo courtesy of Rhea Bluechel.

Last Wednesday’s death of 9-year-old Cody Boyd sent a jolt of disbelief and gut-felt sadness through Hailey and the Wood River Valley communities that no doubt will continue to reverberate as police conduct investigations and as family, friends and acquaintances work out what it means for a young life to end abruptly.

Word spread quickly of the tragedy, and within hours Wednesday, it seemed almost everybody knew of the story, at least in broad-stroke form.

At 8:15 a.m., Boyd, was riding his bicycle to summer school at Hailey Elementary. Boyd lived with his mother, Rhea Bluechel, 29, and sister Shaylee Stafford, 7, on the north end of Second Avenue.

So the ride to school was a straight shot south. But at Bullion Street, Boyd collided with "a large flatbed truck towing a large flatbed trailer," a police report says, and he was massively injured. He died soon after at the Wood River Medical Center in Hailey.

The truck and trailer never stopped, and at press time yesterday, police still searched for the vehicle and its driver.

One disturbing twist to the story is the fact that Boyd’s mother and sister were running errands Wednesday morning and, coincidentally, were two of the first people to arrive at the gruesome scene.

During an interview at her house Friday, Bluechel described scooping palms full of blood from her son’s mouth before being held back by Pat Rainey, a passing motorist who had stopped to help. On Friday, she appeared nearly cataleptic with grief.

By Friday afternoon, a half dozen family and friends had gathered in Bluechel’s home to give comfort and support. A new kitten trotted obliviously through the kitchen, while guests talked quietly in the living room. Uneaten pies and other baked goods sat on the kitchen counter. Bluechel’s hands trembled while she sorted quickly through a stack of photographs looking for a picture of her son to give to a reporter.

"I just happened to run a different errand, and I came upon him," she said. She described the green helmet her son wore and the yellow and red mountain bike he rode, and then she began sobbing.

Bluechel said she has lived in her Second Avenue home for eight years, that she has worked as a dental assistant in Ketchum for seven years and that her ex-husband, Cam Boyd, lives and works in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Boyd’s uncle, Alex Macdonald, remained stoic about the accident. He emphasized that it’s more important for family and friends to focus on the loss of Boyd, rather than on vengeance.

"I don’t think there’s any horrible news to come out," he said. "I think there’s a legal issue and technically, by law, it could be a criminal issue. As far as my actual feelings on it, I’m not concerned. The worse case scenario doesn’t bring Cody back."

To help Boyd’s mother, sister and other family members contend with their grief, Wood River Medical Center hospice worker Carolyn Nystrom arrived at the Hailey medical center early Wednesday and at Bluechel’s house later in the day.

During a telephone interview Thursday, Nystrom said grieving is "very individualized because everybody deals with grief in a different way."

Nystrom said the kind of grief brought on by the sudden death of a family member can cause confusion and exaggerated guilt and anger and can be so severe that it causes physical reactions like vomiting.

"Some can’t get out of bed," she said. Years later, milestone events, such as birthdays, can retrigger the sorrow. The grieving process, she said, really never ends.

Nystrom said the hospice organizes monthly sessions of a group called Compassionate Friends that usually has five to 12 members, some who had loved ones who died over a decade earlier.

Boyd’s uncle Macdonald said a family trip scheduled to begin Sunday would, with hope, provide some immediate relief for Bluechel.

Even for those with more remote connections to Boyd, his death was horrifying.

A woman cried quietly while walking her dogs in Cold Springs south of Ketchum Saturday morning. She said she wanted to get it out of her system before attending memorial services in Hailey later that day.

Those who witnessed the immediate aftermath of the wreck said they were "devastated."

Jeff Nevins, an assistant fire chief with Wood River Fire and Rescue, was one three emergency medical technicians to arrive first on the scene. In a telephone interview Monday, Nevins said Boyd suffered severe head and leg trauma, and that the injuries were too extensive to be treated at the accident scene. Of all the injuries he sees, he said, "children are always the worst ones. Kids are supposed to be innocent bystanders. They don’t deserve that kind of trauma."

Such emotionally disturbing accidents as Wednesday’s can cause excessive drinking and shortened careers among EMTs, Nevins said, a problem they try to alleviate by meeting with a hospice worker to talk and to emotionally defuse.

Neighbors and passing motorists who arrived on the scene were also deeply disturbed.

"I’ve been sick all day," said Tom Hickey, a 15-year resident who was interviewed at his house on Bullion Wednesday evening. Hickey said he ran out to the intersection after he heard five or six blasts of a car horn that morning, but he "kind of left" the area, because several other people had already arrived, and the scene was so terrible.

Keith Nelson, interviewed at his grandfather’s house on Bullion Wednesday evening, didn’t witness the event, but, he said, "It sucks…. It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard."

Neighbors, without exception, said they weren’t surprised a cyclist had been hit by a motorist in the Old Hailey area. Bullion Street, they believe, is especially dangerous, because traffic from the east side of town funnels onto the street to take advantage of the stoplight where Bullion intersects Main Street.

The neighbors described drivers heading toward the intersection from three blocks away, gunning their engines to make green lights. Some residents advocated more signals and stop signs in and near the downtown area. Some said they want stricter police enforcement of traffic laws.

Two residents said another bicyclist had been hit by a car and taken away by ambulance a week earlier at the intersection of Third and Bullion, one block east of where Boyd was killed.

"It’s not fair to people who live here," said Vicky Raymer, who said she has lived on Second Avenue for 12 years. "There are a lot of kids out on these streets on bicycles. [Kids getting hit is] something we don’t need happening in our neighborhood. We don’t need it happening anyplace."

Mike Jones, who lives on Bullion, said, "a lot of heavy trucks" driving to construction sites in east Hailey make the problem worse, but he seemed resigned to the situation.

"I don’t know what they can do about it," he said stoically. "The construction is going to go on. This is a growing area."

Nevertheless, he said, "I think they need to slow down."

During Saturday’s memorial services, Speaker Wendy Collins reminded mourners in the packed St. Charles Catholic Church in Hailey, however, to be careful about placing blame.

"Bicycles aren’t bad, cars aren’t bad, trucks aren’t bad, God’s not bad," she said. "Accidents happen, and whenever you think of Cody, think about being safe…think about what you’re doing."

Services began at noon. Nearly 200 people packed inside the old brick church, while the local Boulder Brothers quintet harmonized with flute, voice and guitar. Balloons ducked and bobbed on their strings outside. Near the pulpit, flowers and photos of Boyd surrounded his closed, blond wood casket.

"There’s so many things about life that we don’t understand," Collins said. "No one really knows what accidents like this mean. It doesn’t seem possible that there could be something so wonderful as Cody taken away and have that be a meaningless thing. Is it possible he got his work done in nine years? We don’t know….We’re here today to try to understand the un-understandable."

It’s not clear whether anybody reached that understanding. But at somewhere around 1 o’clock, family and friends wheeled the casket down the aisle and out of the church, where mourners followed and gathered.

Nine-year-old Cody Boyd was cremated later that day.

 

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