Collin Fletcher died last week doing what he liked to do best.
The 14-year-old was hunting Thursday on a day off from school when apparently his shotgun accidentally discharged, delivering a deadly injury to the abdomen.
The Morenci eighth grade student was an avid hunter with years of experience. With good weather on parent-teacher conference day, Collin told his family he was heading out from their Terry Highway home east of Morenci to hunt rabbits and squirrels shortly before noon.
When he failed to return home for football practice, his older brother, Trevor, went out to look for him and soon encountered Butch Sutherland who lives nearby.
Butch called his sons and a search got underway. As news of the disappearance spread, additional volunteers joined the effort.
The family made a report to the Lenawee County Sheriff’s office around 7:30 p.m. and the search response grew to include officers and members of the Fairfield Fire Department. The Morenci Fire Department was called for the use of their infrared camera that can detect body heat.
The ProMedica Health System emergency helicopter flew over the scene with searchlights and the Monroe County Sheriff’s office responded with a helicopter.
Volunteers from the Madison, Clayton, Palmyra and Adrian Township fire departments arrived, along with dozens of citizens, many traveling on ATVs. The Salvation Army canteen unit was brought to the scene to offer refreshments to the volunteers.
The search continued throughout the night, but darkness hampered the efforts.
“We provided all of our battery-powered flashlights and extra radios,” said Morenci fire chief Chad Schisler, “and we had our rescue unit there to recharge batteries.”
Many hunters brought along spotlights to help illuminate the countryside.
“Anything that anybody could do, they did to try to help,” Schisler said.
Ironically, it wasn’t a searcher who ended the hunt. Two neighboring students were riding their bicycles toward the Fletcher home the next morning to talk with their father and they spotted a rifle by the side of the road. They soon saw Collin nearby.
Many ATVs had traveled past the scene throughout the night, but searchers failed to see the body in the brush in darkness.
Students and staff members remember Collin as a funny, friendly individual who never failed to make them laugh. He was described as full of life and energy, and a lover of the outdoors who always thought about hunting.
Despite no classes on Friday, Morenci Middle School was opened in the afternoon for students and staff to meet. Counselors were available at the school Monday to help students troubled by the incident.
School was dismissed at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and a memorial service was scheduled in the high school gymnasium at 2:30 p.m.
A fund for the Fletcher family was established at United Bank and Trust. Donation checks should be made out to the Fletcher Family Fund.