HUXLEY, Iowa -- An early morning blaze that killed a Huxley father and son has caused widespread damages that go beyond the home. "It's been really tough on not only the family, students and staff but our community as a whole," said Chris Deason, Ballard High School Director of Student Services.
Brett VanErsvelde died from the fire, his son Dan, who was autistic, passed away Wednesday at an Iowa City hospital. Dan's twin sister, his mother and another sister survived. "It is one of those events where it really makes you think," said Chris.
Until the tragedy, Deason saw Dan, who was a Junior student, every day. Chris said, "He was upbeat and always smiling. He would come into the office every single day and talk to us."
Students spent the week hoping he'd pull through his injuries but were left heartbroken. "It gives me goosebumps to talk about it but we've had kids come in this office and sign posters for Dan that you might not have thought would do that," said Chris. The deaths have also been a double-edged sword. He said, "We have people that work in this building that are also on the fire and rescue crew and those people are struggling."
To help cope, the students decided to represent Dan under the Friday night lights and their opponent's students from Norwalk plan to do the same. Chris said, "Blue is Dan's favorite color. They wanted to show him some love by doing that tonight." Dan even had his own draw in the nurse's office full of colorful band-aids that were his favorite. The football team will wear them to help the healing process. "Every day he'd stop by our nurse's office and she would put a band-aid on his hand and so you'll see our football team tonight wearing the colorful band-aids on the back of their helmets to support Dan," said Chris.
A community showing their true colors for a teenager who always showed his. "Everybody is just coming together just thinking of the family. Really prioritizing where things are in your life."
The Huxley firefighters will lead a moment of silence for the VanErsvelde family before Friday's football game. Brett's memorial service was held this morning in Brooklyn but he will be buried at a later date. Dan's services are still pending.