Friends of Westfield teen Mark Hollaway, 14, who have taken to Facebook to pay tribute to a life that ended far too soon.
In messaged posted on the RIP Mark Hollaway page, friends urge the community to always remember the Westfield High School freshman. "You'll never be forgotten. We know you're in a better place, but selfishly, we wish you were all here with us. We love you Mark."
News of Hollaway's passing spread through the Westfield community Thursday morning, with the Westfield school district offering this statement: "The High School was notified today by a family member of the off-campus death yesterday of one of our students. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family, and we respect the privacy of the family at this very difficult time."
Friends are asking how this could have happened to the teen, known for his love of basketball. One of the Facebook page's administrators, Lanre Badmus explained, "He had the flu and it very quickly progressed to pneumonia."
Late Thursday, the Westfield Board of Health issued the following update:
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has received a report regarding the death of a Union County juvenile and are investigating it as a suspected flu death. While this case is still under investigation, it is important to keep in mind the following steps you can take to avoid the flu:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough;
- Wash your hands frequently;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth - germs spread this way;
- Stay home from work or school when you are sick.
To view the message in its entirety, click here.
If Hollaway's death is determined to be flu-related, it would be the third flu fatality in the state this season.
When Patch contacted Westfield schools spokesperson Lorre Korecky Wednesday to ask about absentee rates in light of widely-reported instances of flu throughout the state, she said she had checked with the high school and noted, "So far, the school has not experienced absenteeism in greater numbers than is normal for this time of year."
Still, friends of Hollaway's, even in their grief, are advising others to take precautions. "Stuff like this makes your problems seem so small, almost nonexistant...but our problems are actually important to the people around us...and ourselves. Listen to yourself. When you believe you're sick, please, especially in this horrible flu season, stay home from school."