Candlelight vigil held for teen who drowned


GREENFIELD TOWNSHIP, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WOLF) -- It was a sad farewell as hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to the teenager who drowned on Tuesday.

People brought candles and flowers to the beach at Newton Lake to remember a 17-year-old whose life was cut short in a sudden accident.

"Give us, we pray, comfort in our anxiety and fear. courage and strength in our suffering. patience and compassion in our caring," a friend said at the microphone.

After some words from friends and Leah Loomis' principal, almost everyone moved toward the lake for a time of quiet remembrance on a cool evening.

"The candles we have lit represent each and every one of us whose lives have been touched forever by Leah," a friend said.

"We're just in shock over the whole thing. Leah was a good friend of my daughter's and she was a regular at our house," says Lakeland parent Greg Bertholf.

Some parents came to the 6:30 p.m. Thursday vigil to pay respects along with their kids, dealing with the sudden loss. We spoke with one mom whose daughter did cheerleading with Leah.

"She's not doing well at all, but she has the support of her family and her boyfriend and all the Lakeland children," says Lakeland parent Robin Tochydlowski.

One dad says the kids have been supporting each other.

"I haven't even really seen her too much over the last couple days, because they've been all kind of bonding together, and they've been having sleepovers and just trying to get through it, so it's been rough on them," says Bertholf.

People parked at the Greenfield fire hall and came by school bus. They came from different towns to take part.

"Just to pay our respects to Lakeland and the cheerleaders, because we go to camp and everything with them, so we felt a need to," says Katie Wilson from the Mid-Valley cheer team in Throop.

"It's just crazy how fast things can happen and that you never know when the last time you're gonna see someone is," says Kaitlin Griggs from the Mid-Valley cheer team.

The Lakeland Junior-Senior High principal says Leah's smile stood out, and recalled one moment that had people laughing.

"She had to throw meatloaf at somebody in the cafeteria because they said something that she shouldn't have said, and we joked that that's one of the very few times we had to deal with her in the office," says principal James Pivirotto.

"She's just the kind of girl that lit up a room. She was always smiling, always happy, just a really good-natured person," says Bertholf.

Leah was apparently hit in the head by a boat after she fell out of it on Tuesday, according to coroner Tim Rowland. He says it was an accidental drowning and that the head injury alone was severe enough that she would not have survived it.

The Fish and Boat Commission is also investigating.

"She was very well liked. This is going to be hard on the whole community," says Tochydlowski.

One speaker, Josh Dilts, says he's hoping to raise funds on Facebook for Leah's Legacy. He wants to fund funeral costs, boating safety courses, and a lighthouse memorial here at the beach.

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