FLEMING COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - Hundreds gathered at Panther Field at the Fleming County High School to say their farewell to Ricky Hamilton Jr. The school's principle says the size of the crowd was a testament to Hamilton's impact.
"It's wonderful that all of these people are coming out and supporting his family through this rough time," said sophomore Tessa Hickerson, a classmate of Hamilton's.
The 15-year-old had been missing for several days, and Tuesday afternoon, just before students left for their Thanksgiving break, they learned what they had feared for days: Hamilton was found dead.
"Today, we received news that was not the outcome we were looking for," Principle Mark Leet said to the crowd at gathered for the vigil.
"You lose a classmate and team member it's kind of hard to describe," stated Senior Warren Hardy, a teammate of Hamilton's on the football team.
"I'm still in denial," described Hickerson, "everybody goes hunting and you would not think anything like this would happen."
Teammates wore their jerseys in Hamilton's honor and nearly 600 others gathered to say goodbye on the same football field that the teen once played on. Along with friends, classmates, and family members, many of the volunteers who spent hours searching for the teen also came to pay their respect.
"Being a part of his class, I thought it would be really important for all of us to be here for his family at this time. During Thanksgiving, right now, my heart goes out to them," said Hickerson.
Hardy said he felt it was necessary to be at the field Tuesday night because he wants "to celebrate his memory and celebrate his life."
This may be a small school in a small community but the loss has left a large impact on many lives. The school says they will have more counselors on hand Monday, following the Thanksgiving break, to help students cope through this tragedy.