A 6-year-old boy died Monday after being trapped underneath a utility trailer door in Burton, according to authorities.
James McDiffett Jr., a first-grader at Whale Branch Elementary School, died at Beaufort Memorial Hospital at about 6:30 p.m., Beaufort County Deputy Coroner David Ott said Tuesday. An autopsy revealed the accidental death was due to traumatic asphyxia from the door compressing his chest, Ott said.
The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office was dispatched to Hampton Drive at about 5:30 p.m., initially on the report of a shot fired, Sgt. Robin McIntosh said. En route, that changed to someone crushed under a trailer door, and the noise people heard had been the door falling.
She said McDiffett had been outside riding his bike and apparently managed to unlatch the door. His father came outside, saw his son and started attempting to rescue him. EMS workers took over when they arrived, and the child was taken to the hospital.
Six counselors were sent to Whale Branch Elementary on Tuesday to help students cope, and about six ministers also came, Beaufort County School District spokesman Jim Foster said.
Principal Anita Lynn Singleton spoke on behalf of the family and teachers Tuesday evening.
"He was an adorable, fun-loving student," she said.
The teachers called him "Dimples" for the twin indents surrounding his constant smile. He loved being outdoors, fishing and especially tools.
McDiffett's kindergarten teacher, Rachael Smith, told Singleton about how on Friday McDiffett was so determined to give her a hug that he stood waving in the bus line until she came over.
Some of the school staff went to McDiffett's house Tuesday afternoon after school to visit his father, Singleton said. He took them to his son's room, where friends were playing and said it cheered him up to have the children there playing.
A recorded message was sent to Whale Branch families Tuesday evening, informing parents of the accident and the availability of counseling for students, Singleton said.
The school will plan some activities and events in memory of McDiffett. Singleton was grateful for the outpouring of community support for McDiffett's father, classmates and school personnel.
"This was a great example of how we support each other," she said. "We needed everybody, all stakeholders on hand."
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.