What was supposed to be a relaxing day off from work and school turned into a tragedy for a Woodland High School family.
Assistant Principal/Athletic Director John Howard's 3-year-old son, Rhys, was killed Monday when the all-terrain vehicle he was riding with a 14-year-old driver flipped and landed in a ditch.
According to the Georgia State Patrol, the Polaris Ranger 700XP was traveling south on Old Tennessee Highway when the driver went off the west shoulder of the road and overcorrected.
The ATV overturned and came to a stop in a ditch on the other side of the road.
It's unclear if the driver sustained any injuries or was transported to a hospital after the accident, which is under investigation.
The relationship between the toddler and the teenager wasn't made public.
Rhys' mother and John's wife is Amie Howard, the athletic director at Allatoona High School in Cobb County.
Bartow County School System Communications Director Alisha Evans issued a statement Tuesday afternoon about the Paulding County family's tragedy.
"Our collective hearts are heavy this week following the tragic news involving one of our own, John Howard, a beloved and integral member of the Woodland High School and Bartow County School System family," she said. "There is an unmistakable and oftentimes overwhelming feeling of sadness in countless classrooms and county offices. It’s a heartache that nobody can define."
She also said the entire school system extends its "deepest condolences" to the Howard family and encourages the community to "join us as we uplift and rally behind them during this painful time."
WHS Principal David Stephenson echoed Evans' sentiments.
"Our staff and students’ hearts ache for the Howards," he said. "John and his family are Woodland family, and the news is overwhelming. We extend our support, love, compassion and condolences."
He added the school's initial outreach to the family will be through providing meals and "heartfelt prayers for comfort."
Tuesday morning, guidance counselors and a wellness specialist, as well as Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page and other system leaders, met with WHS staff members at a faculty meeting, called by Stephenson, to "offer comfort in the midst of pain," Evans said.
Stephenson said the school's counseling team was available to all Wildcat staff and students throughout the day "and going forward as needed."
Funeral arrangements for Rhys had not been announced by press time.