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November 26, 2012

'Words can't describe what kind of a loss this is'

Death of 17-year-old shakes Haverhill school community

HAVERHILL — Joshua Bonnell had big hopes for his future.

A senior at Haverhill High School, the 17-year-old met with Principal Bernard Nangle the day before Thanksgiving to ask him for a letter of recommendation to Maine Maritime Academy, which Joshua hoped to attend.

Nangle was eager to grant Joshua’s request because he made a good impression on Nangle, especially during the boy’s freshman and sophomore years when he volunteered to help build stage sets for school plays.

“He was pretty handy with a hammer and was always willing to lend a hand,” Nangle said. “He helped construct a lot of theatrical sets. He could do it all.”

Yesterday, Nangle had to write a different kind of letter. It was one he could not have imagined last Wednesday when a bright young man came into his office to talk about his hopes and dreams. This letter was a follow-up to one he sent to staff on Saturday after learning that Joshua died in a car crash on Friday. His 15-year-old brother Austin Bonnell, a freshman at Haverhill High, was seriously injured in the crash, officials said.

“The Haverhill High School community is deeply saddened by the tragedy that befell the family of Josh and Austin Bonnell,” Nangle said in an email to staff yesterday morning. “We are stunned by the loss of Josh, as he was a bright and witty teenager who brought joy into a room with his warm and friendly ways.”

The death has shaken the local school community, from the high school to Tilton Elementary School, which Joshua attended years ago and where his parents did volunteer work.

Nangle said that when Joshua met with him last Wednesday, he seemed very upbeat about the possibility of attending Maine Maritime Academy.

Nangle told staff members that Austin Bonnell, who is recovering from his serious injuries, is a freshman who seemed to be fitting in nicely to the surroundings at the high school.

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