Owen, Vincent and Kerry Oates were in a car crash Dec. 28 that claimed the lives of both Owen and Vincent. Photo courtesy of Nichole Lewis Doyer

STANDISH — The staff at two elementary schools in Standish are working to “wrap around these kids and care for them in the best way possible” after a three-car crash two weeks ago that killed third grader Owen Oates.

Owen, 8, was a student at Edna Libby Elementary School. His parents – Vincent Oates, 51, and Kerry Oates, 46 – were critically injured in a Dec. 28 crash on Route 35, and Vincent Oates died Jan. 2 at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Also critically injured in the crash was Danilo Warrick, 75, of Standish, who is a custodian at Edna Libby and George E. Jack Elementary Schools. The crash remains under investigation, and the Cumberland County Sherriff’s Office could not be reached to provide new information.

Warrick was in satisfactory condition this week at Maine Medical Center, according to Matt Wickenheiser, senior communications manager at the hospital. Wickenheiser said he could provide no information about Kerry Oates’ condition.

Meanwhile, the elementary schools are focusing on providing services for their students.

Edna Libby Principal Timothy Vacchiano said the district’s crisis team met Dec. 30 and “looked at how we can wrap around these kids and care for them in the best way possible as well as what staff needs are going to be.”

The district has 12 guidance counselors, and Vacchiano said “we re-allocated our resources and made sure that all of our schools were staffed with social services. We sent as many people as we could here to Edna Libby.”

Two social workers were also relocated to Edna Libby.

SAD 6 Superintendent Paul Penna said that in a crisis, the school “wants to work from internal to external using people who know the community. It gives it more of a personalized feeling.”

Owen “was a wonderful young man that was always smiling and was kind and helpful to everybody,” Vacchiano said. 

On Jan. 2, the first day back from winter vacation, staff members discussed with students what had occurred. Vacchiano said some parents, who had been notified in advance of the discussion, chose to keep their children home from school that day.

Two rooms in Edna Libby were set aside for social workers, and the students made artwork and talked together about how they were feeling.

“It was a strategy using all the resources that we have within our district,” Penna said.

Vacchiano said the reactions from students have been varied: “They’re kindergartners through third graders. We get the gamut of questions, worries, sadness. We saw the full spectrum of behaviors and emotions.”

Grieving is a process,” Penna said. “You have to talk about it, you have to acknowledge it, you have to work your way through it. There’s a lot of conversation.”

The schools have received much community support, Vacchiano said, including snacks and quilts for the students.

The community has come together in a variety of other ways, including a benefit for Kerry Oates to be held Saturday, Jan. 11, at 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Westbook, 300 Conant St.

A GoFundMe fundraiser to support Warrick had raised $7,335 as of Wednesday morning, while a separate page for the Oates family had raised $69,430.

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