Community shares love for brothers killed in snowslide, support for grieving family

Published: Monday, Jan. 21 2013 9:25 p.m. MST

A group embraces as the Heber City community gathers to send notes on balloons at a candlelight vigil for 7-year-old Trevan Sweat and his brother, 14-year-old Coleman Sweat, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, in Heber City. The boys were killed Friday when a cornice collapsed and buried them.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

HEBER CITY — Taylor Bethers walked quietly among the hundreds of classmates and community members who filled the gymnasium at Rocky Mountain Middle School on Monday night. 

In his hand he held a note, tied to the end of a balloon, that soon floated away with 1,500 other "letters to heaven" in honor of Coleman and Trevan Sweat. The brothers were killed on a family snowmobiling trip Friday after the snow ledge they were standing on collapsed underneath them. 

Taylor's note was addressed to 14-year-old Coleman, his friend since childhood and wrestling teammate.

"Hey, buddy. I love you and I hope you're happy up there. I'll see you sometime," it read.

Another letter written by seventh-grader Coy Bronson, another of Coleman's friends, referenced 7-year-old Trevan.

"Tell Trevan I need to meet him, and if he's anything like you, he's my friend too."

Hundreds of mourners gathered at the school for a vigil Monday night, honoring the two boys and offering support for their grieving family. The quiet crowd filled the bleachers, then began to line the walls in the gymnasium, where a poster on the wall from the recent eighth-grade intramural volleyball tournament listed "Mr. Sweat" as the second-place finisher.

Principal Justin Kelly, a longtime friend of the family, spoke on behalf of the boys' parents, Jason and Janette Sweat. Kelly recalled Coleman's creativity and friendly demeanor, calling him a tough wrestler but a sensitive friend. 

"Wherever Coleman was, there was always a bunch of people gathered around," Kelly said, describing the student's amusement as he worked on a video project for class.

The young teen cared loyally for his younger brother, "a tender and quiet kid," who the family ironically nicknamed "Reb," Kelly said. 

"He just liked being with Coleman and all the Sweat boys," he said. "Although his nickname was 'Rebel,' he was far from being a rebel. … He just loved life."

Family members believe Coleman was still looking after his brother in their final moments, helping "little Reb" to the other side, Kelly said, and they are together now fixing four-wheelers, driving tractors and hauling hay in the sky. 

Kelly announced a scholarship in memory of the boys, to be named the Coleman Sweat Memorial Scholarship, that will be awarded to a graduating senior at Wasatch High who has performed academically while giving back to the community.

Following the presentation, the crowd wrote their letters, collected blue and green balloons, the boys' favorite colors, and moved outside to light their candles. A few smiles shone through as families and friends huddled together or linked arms, watching the balloons drift away and humming along to "Home" by Phillip Phillips.

A moment of silence was observed for the boys — 21 seconds, for their combined ages.

The boys' family stood to the side, releasing the final group of balloons and accepting flowers from the school.

Korey and Merrie Walker, members of the Sweat family's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward, came with their children to support the neighbors that they said always put family first.

Coleman was the first to reach out to the Walkers' 13-year-old son, who is blind, Korey Walker said. 

"When he first got in to the Deacon's Quorum (at church), Coleman was the first to take his hand," he said. "That's just the kind of kid Coleman was."

The Walkers said they hope the vigil helped their children — and all in attendance — to seek comfort and express their feelings.

Maty Fish, a fellow eighth-grader, said she will always remember Coleman's friendly demeanor. If any of his classmates were ever cold, Coleman was the first to offer his own jacket, she recalled. 

"He was probably one of the nicest one out of all the boys," she said, wiping tears. "He was just the best out of all of them."

Maty said she wasn't surprised by how large the crowd at the vigil was, and she believes Coleman and Trevan will read the notes that were released Monday.

"They're safe, and they'll get our notes," she said. "Hopefully they'll just appreciate and know how much we love them." 

E-mail: mromero@deseretnews.com

Twitter: McKenzieRomero

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