Second high school student in five months dies in accidental shooting

Wednesday, February 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TISHOMINGO, Okla. (AP) -- Damien Coltz and Norma Vargas shared a love of basketball and a fate students at a southeastern Oklahoma high school find hard to bear.

Coltz, 16, was home Saturday night with a friend when he brought out a pistol from a bedroom, Johnston County Sheriff Jon Smith said. The friend warned Coltz not to play with the gun and to put it away.

"He (Coltz) said `Don't worry, it's not loaded,'5/8" Smith said.

After clicking the hammer back several times, the gun fired, sending a .22-caliber bullet toward the teen-ager's head.

Coltz, who lived near Connerville, was taken to a Tishomingo hospital, then flown by helicopter to a hospital in Sherman, Texas, where he died on Sunday. Connervill is located in northern Johnston County.

"No gun is really unloaded," Smith said.

For students at McLish High School, the freshman was the second classmate lost to an accidental shooting in five months.

Vargas, 16, died Sept. 20 when a loaded shotgun fell on the floor of her home near Fittstown and accidentally fired. She was hit in her waist and suffered massive injuries to both lungs.

"It's always rough when you lose a kid," McLish Superintendent Ron Brown said Tuesday. "And it doesn't just affect the kids. It affects the teachers, too. Our teachers are close to our kids. It's almost like losing one of your own."

Counselors were on hand Monday to talk with students who were having difficulty dealing with Coltz's death, Brown said.

Coltz sat out basketball this year to concentrate on his grades, but planned to play next year. He was remembered as an affable, popular student.

"I don't know anybody who didn't like him," Brown said.

Coltz's death came on the same day Vargas would have turned 17.

"This is something that would happen once in your lifetime. But to have this happen twice in the same year," Brown said. "The chances that this would happen ..."

Like Coltz, Vargas loved to play basketball, and was penciled in as a starter for the 2000-01 season.

The school this season retired jersey No. 23, the number Vargas wore.

"Kids still cry about Norma," Brown said.

"It's tough, but these kids are resilient. They'll get through this."