LODI — Trevor Sibley was looking forward to guiding his youngest son, Ryan, through high school and into adulthood. He and his wife, Yamani, had done that with Ryan’s older brothers.
Tragically, that won’t happen.
Ryan’s father and one of his older brothers found him dead in his room after school Tuesday. Ryan had taken his own life.
“We had no indication anything was bothering him,” Trevor Sibley said Wednesday after making funeral arrangements. “We can’t imagine why things came to this. He was a happy-go-lucky kid. We were back from spring break in Florida. We had a great time. We are a tight-knit family who did a lot together.
“We will miss him terribly. I was looking forward to teaching him things as he grew up. Now that’s cut short for reasons we may never know.”
Trevor said he hopes his son’s death will impact other young people, prompting them to get help when they feel their problems are too much and death is the only way out.
“I love him very much and always will. He gave us great joy,” Trevor said. “I hope parents will be close to their children and love them all they can.”
In a Facebook post Tuesday night, school district Superintendent Stephen Parker Zielinski issued a statement to the community.
“The South Seneca Central School District is mourning the loss of a 14-year-old freshman. We are heartbroken tonight to share the news of the tragic death of Ryan Sibley, who took his own life this afternoon. The Sibley family supports our effort to share this information with our community.”
Zielinski said the high school students convened in the auditorium Wednesday so they could be addressed directly. Facts were shared and the work to grieve together began. Extra support and counseling are being offered to anyone who needs it.
“Ryan leaves behind scores of friends and family members who will need some time to recover from the shock of his death, but will remember a bright and engaging friend, son, brother and grandson who was enjoying his experience as a new student at the TST (Tompkins-Schuyler-Tioga) BOCES P-Tech school,” Zielinski continued. “In times like this, we are reminded about what a supporting community we have at South Seneca and how important it will be to look out for each other in the weeks ahead. Our condolences go out to the whole Sibley family, and we encourage anyone who needs help, or knows of those who do, to reach out and ask.”
Zielinski said the news of Ryan’s passing reached school around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. The district’s crisis team at the secondary school convened immediately, he noted, working into the evening to coordinate with law enforcement, reach out to the family and gather information.
“Communication was important so that we could coordinate also with TST BOCES and the P-Tech high school there, since Ryan was attending as a ninth-grader,” he said. “He had been thriving in the new program, and a whole other network of people, from many of the BOCES component school districts, were also affected by the tragedy.”
Neighboring school districts offered to send counselors to help staff and students, Zielinski added, calling that response “incredible.” He said they developed a list of students who might be most affected by the news.
The faculty met at 7 a.m. Wednesday to communicate the plan, noting that many supporters were at the Sibley home in Lodi.
Zielinski said middle-school students were gathered in one area, ninth- and 10th-graders in another, and 11th- and 12th-graders in a third spot — “to give them the straightforward information about Ryan’s death and encourage all those who needed support to connect with a counselor.”
The P-Tech high school is new this year, and Sibley was in its first class. The program allows a student to get a high school diploma and an associate degree at the same time.
“We have been extremely gratified to be hearing that Ryan was loving the program,” Zielinski said. “He was a wrestler at South Seneca, and the entire wrestling team is devastated by his passing. It will take us some time to fully process this loss.”
Falcons wrestling coach Ken Sweet said his team is a close-knit group that considered themselves a family.
“Ryan wrestled with his older twin brothers, Adam and Trevor, and they were constantly joking with one another,” Sweet said. “Ryan brightened the weight room with his presence. He had an impeccable work ethic and a contagious laugh.
“The team showed tremendous support for their fallen brother by rallying around the Sibley family,” Sweet added. “He really meant a lot to us.”
Senior Quinton Mundell was Ryan’s workout partner and a team captain.
“He was like a little brother to me, a kind, compassionate kid who would do anything for anyone,” Mundell said. “He was a hard worker on the mat and a great partner. I relied on him, and our goal was for both of us to be sectional champions in our weight class. I succeeded this past season, and I give him a lot of credit for making me better through our workouts. I was looking forward to coming back and training with him so he could also be a champion.”
Mundell, who agreed to the family’s request that he speak at the memorial service, said he can’t figure out what would compel Ryan to take his life.
“He never seemed sad,” he said. “He was always happy when I saw him. He brightened my life. I really miss him.”
Carrie Wheeler-Carmenatty, whose son, Keagan, was a sectional champion and state runner-up, posted this message on the Falcon Gold Wrestling Club web page:
“There are no words to adequately express the sadness the entire Falcon Gold wrestling family is experiencing as we mourn the loss of freshman Ryan Sibley. Ryan was a tremendous teammate to his brothers in black and gold, a gentle giant with impeccable manners, a huge heart and love of this sport that binds us all. Please keep Ryan’s family and teammates in your prayers as we navigate this profound loss and, at the request of his parents, please hug your children tightly tonight.”
Tiffany and Chris Folk of Waterloo lost their 18-year-old son, Tristan, to suicide in December 2017. They said they were contacted Tuesday night about Ryan Sibley’s suicide.
“Of course, we offered our support as parents as well as the support of the Tristan Foundation,” Tiffany said, referring to the foundation in memory of their son to raise suicide prevention awareness. “I am hoping to hear from the family when they’re ready.”