An 18-year-old Glynn Academy student died early Wednesday morning after attending a senior party on St. Simons Island, just hours before he was supposed to graduate, according to Glynn County police.
Paramedics responded about 4 a.m. to a 911 call about a medical emergency at a home on 12th Street East for a teenager who may have drunk too much alcohol, was not breathing and had no pulse. Other students at the party say the teen -- identified as William Dalton Collins -- had also hit his head earlier and gone to bed.
Investigators say the students attempted CPR until rescue workers arrived and rushed Collins to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
County police are investigating the death, and the medical examiner will determine the cause of death. Friends say Collins had a history of concussions, so hitting his head the night of his death may have contributed, but it's too early to say.
Police officers said they found 15 others at the rented home, ranging in age from 16 to 20. After obtaining a search warrant, investigators said they found some distilled spirits, beer, wine and marijuana. Twelve of the 15 were cited for possession of alcoholic beverages by a person under age 21, and one charged with possession of marijuana.
Collins died about 12 hours before he was supposed to graduate. He and a group of seniors had rented the house for the week, a tradition for Glynn Academy seniors who get out of class a week early.
Jason Williams was at the party earlier in the week.
"Just some kids having a good time, joking around," he said. "I'm really tore up about what happened."
Scott Spence, the principal of Glynn Academy, called Dalton a great student who played soccer and had plans to attend Georgia Southern University in the fall.
"This was an exceptional student, never was a behavior problem at all whatsoever, outstanding citizen, just a good all-around kid," Spence said.
Williams saw his friend on the beach the day before he died.
"It was a good last conversation," he said. "We were both laughing and stuff, having a good time, and he'll be missed for sure."
Friends say Collins was known for his kind heart and sense of humor. Graduation for his 350 classmates was very emotional.
"They honored him by placing a soccer ball in his chair, a rose in his chair, and they had a stool that all the seniors had signed in his chair, and we had a moment of silence when we called his name," Spence said. "So we had a lot of support, a lot of support from the community for him and for our students."
"It's just one of those things you'll pretty much just never get over it, you'll always think about it, you'll think back on him, and it's just terrible," Williams said.