Kent-Meridian special needs student dies of unknown causes

Chris McCracken died Tuesday, April 16. - Courtesy photo/Jon Wittrock
Chris McCracken died Tuesday, April 16.
— image credit: Courtesy photo/Jon Wittrock

A student in the special needs program at Kent-Meridian High School died April 16 from unknown causes.

According to an email sent out by Principal Wade Barringer, 19-year-old Chris McCracken was taken to the hospital on April 15 complaining of back problems. He died the next morning.

"Chris was a big talker with a lot to say," Barringer wrote to staff and students. "He loved talking to people and having people listen to him. Chris grew a lot this year in his ability to communicate with others and advocate for himself. Chris will be missed."

McCracken lived at Integrated Living Services, an organization in Kent that provides "residential services to people with profound/severe developmental disabilities."

Ken Abercrombie, director of the facility, did not comment on the death of McCracken due to the center's privacy policy.

McCracken's family, who lives in Renton, did not feel comfortable at this time to speak about the passing of their son.

The special needs programs at Kent-Meridian serve the intellectually disabled student population. In McCracken's case, he was accepted into The Outreach Program (TOP) at K-M that teaches social skills and functionality in the workplace. He would have started that program next fall.

"I was preparing him for the 'TOPs University,'" said Pat Harrison, one of the paraeducators at Kent-Meridian who spent almost every day with McCracken. "He was doing everything I asked him to do and more to get him to that level. He would ask us every day when his graduation was coming."

McCracken came to K-M in October. According to Sandra Soto, another paraeducator who worked one-on-one with McCracken, it was not his love for magazines or his growing working and non-working pen collection that people will remember about McCracken, but rather his natural hunger for knowledge and heart of gold.

"He liked to ask a lot of questions," Soto said. "He couldn't read (so) his way of getting information was asking questions. (And) when he did ask questions, he retained that knowledge. He was just someone who was a pleasure to be around. It was like one of my children died."

Harrison, who also developed a strong bond with McCracken, will never forget the moments where his care for others made a substantial impact in her life.

"I lost my husband to a stroke," Harrison said through tears. "I would be back working with (McCracken) and something would come up that would remind me (of my husband). He jumped up and got me Kleenex. He said he would take care of everything for me, that I would have no problems. In a lot of incidences, I was the student with him."

As of now, McCracken's family has not set a date for his funeral, but Barringer said he would email staff and students when that information becomes available.

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