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Canadian authorities still probing death of Westport college student

Published 12:50 pm, Friday, September 17, 2010

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  • Cameron Bruce, of the Staples High Buglars, plays Taps during the Veterans Day Services at Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009. Photo: Amy Mortensen / Connecticut Post Freelance
    Cameron Bruce, of the Staples High Buglars, plays Taps during the Veterans Day Services at Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009. Photo: Amy Mortensen

 

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As shock over the death earlier this week of a 2010 Staples High School graduate at his Canadian college continued to reverberate through Westport, police investigating what apparently was tragic accident said Thursday afternoon there was no new information about the incident to report.

Cameron Bruce, 18, fell to his death early Monday from a sixth-floor dormitory window at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, where he was a first-year engineering student.

Other than to say that foul play or suicide are not believed to be factors in Bruce's death, investigators have released little information.

Kingston Police Constable Mike Menor, a department spokesman, said as of Thursday afternoon that detectives had nothing new to report. A toxicology report is being prepared by the regional coroner's office, Menor said.

Police Chief Stephen Tanner on Wednesday told the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper that police are investigating whether alcohol was a factor in Bruce's death.

Bruce was "actively engaged in frosh week activities" organized by the school's student engineering society, according to a statement posted on the society's website that was quoted by the Toronto Sun.

His body was found about 6 a.m. Monday on the grass behind Victoria Hall, a six-floor co-ed residence building.

A captain of the Staples swim team and an accomplished trumpeter, Bruce was poised to begin classes at Queen's University, which were set to get under way Monday, the day he died.

Canadian law-enforcement officials continue to look for anyone who was with Bruce or might know what occurred prior to his death. Tanner told the local newspaper that police are interviewing people who were with Bruce prior to his death, but have not found any witnesses to the incident that apparently killed him.

Fellow Westporter and Staples graduate Ian Winick graduated two years before Bruce and is a junior at Queen's. He told the Globe and Mail that he did not know Bruce to be an "outrageous partier. He was a fun guy, but wasn't out of control." Winick's father, Alan, is the director of education at the Discovery Museum and Planetarium in Bridgeport, where Bruce and Ian Winick worked this summer.

The university lowered its campus flags in memory of Bruce.

"This is a shock for all of us, and our hearts and thoughts are with the student's family and friends," John Pierce, the university's associate vice-principal and dean of student affairs, said in a statement.

As news of the tragedy spread through the halls at Staples and various community channels, those who knew Cameron remembered a young man who shared his talents with the town he called home.

In addition to his athletic accomplishments, Cameron was known in Westport as a skilled trumpet player. He performed Taps at the town's Memorial Day service earlier this year, with the Norwalk Youth Symphony for five years and was the assistant principal trumpet during the 2009-10 season. He also had interest in theater, which he expressed as a performer with the Staples Players.

In tribute to his memory, the Staples Players posted a blog, which reads, in part: "As many of you may know, a former Staples student, Cameron Bruce, died yesterday while at college at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada. Cameron, who graduated from Staples last June, was an extremely well-liked young man who shared his musical talents with Players by playing trumpet in several of our pits. Cameron also appeared on stage in the Players One Act Festival in 2008, starring with Peter Molesworth and Marion Mason in `A Wedding Story.' "

The complete posting, with photos, can be read at: http://staplesplayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/remembering-cameron-bruce/

His parents Iain and Linda Bruce are active in the Westport community. Iain is president of the Westport Weston Family Y board of directors and Linda is a member of the Representative Town Meeting. He is also survived by his sister, Margot, and grandmother, Shirley Bruce.

News of Cameron's life and untimely death Monday swept through the high school. Tuesday began with an announcement on the public-address system from Staples Principal John Dodig about the death, followed by a moment of silence.

All 10 school counselors, three social workers and three psychologists are available to any student who needs to talk about the tragedy. Dodig said at about noontime Tuesday that approximately a dozen students had come in so far to take advantage of the services. "Everything is under control," he said.

Still, the news has sent shock waves through the school. Dodig said that band instructor Nick Mariconda almost collapsed when he learned about Bruce's untimely death. "It was like telling him that his own son had died," the principal said.

Not only was Cameron active with the band, he was a member of the elite jazz ensemble, which Mariconda supervises. Dodig said that Mariconda told him that Cameron played a special role in the ensemble, in addition to that of his musical talents.

"He would rely on Cameron to inspire the other kids," Dodig said. "That's just the type of kid he was."

Dodig, who has been an educator for 42 years, said that the overwhelming majority of the millions of high school students across America go through their four years largely unnoticed. But not Cameron Bruce.

"Here's a kid who made a mark on Staples High School," Dodig said. "That says a lot about him and his family."

Cameron also made a strong impression on AP economics teacher Kathy Sharp. Dodig said she shared with him a story how he came in the day after the AP exam -- a day most students stop trying -- and was eager to learn more. "There he was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to learn more," Dodig said.

Indeed, Cameron was known for his academic achievements, along with his musical skills and athletic talents. He was an AP Scholar with Distinction and a Commended 2010 National Merit Scholar.

Staples math teacher and head swimming coach Jeffrey Schare said Cameron had "tremendous promise." Schare, who first met Cameron while he was coaching his sixth-grade club team at the Westport-Weston Family Y, said Cameron was of the "highest of character," a trait that "rubbed off on his teammates."

His leadership, both vocally and quietly through his performance, was an indelible asset for Schare's squad. A four-year varsity member of the team, Cameron was a state tournament and FCIAC finalist all four seasons. After his senior season he was named an Academic All-American. He participated in many events, including the breast stroke and 100-meter backstroke and was the team's top 200-meter individual medley swimmer. Cameron also swam for the Westport Weston Family Y Water WRAT team, starting at a young age.

While swimming was one of Cameron's passions, Schare said what made him special was that he was "very talented and exceled" in several areas. Cameron's spiky, chlorinated hair and bright smile upon emerging from the pool will always stick in Schare's head. This is an image that Dodig remembers, too.

But it is not an athletic feat that the coach will remember most. Instead, he will always hear Cameron playing the Star-Spangled Banner on his trumpet prior to every Staples meet.

Dan Woog, coach of the Staples boys soccer team, shared the following memories: "Cameron loved three things: swimming, music and Staples High School. The three came together last June, when he was boys swim team's `Scholar-Athlete' at our annual dinner honoring one representative from each of our 33 varsity sports.

"Each year, we ask a scholar-athlete who is also a musician to play the `Star Spangled Banner,' " Woog recalled. "This year we asked him to play it on his trumpet -- no easy task. Cameron obliged, with his usual smile. It was a fun, touching and memorable moment, and epitomized him completely."

"Our hearts go out to the Bruce family and all who knew Cameron," First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them. I know all Westporters share their deep loss."

Services for Bruce are planned at Saugatuck Congregational Church -- visiting hours will be on Friday, Sept. 24 from 4 to 8 p.m.; the funeral will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25.

Donations in Bruce's memory may be made to the Cameron Bruce Scholarship for Trumpet at the New England Music Camp, 8 Goldenrod Lane, Sidney, ME 04330. A grant will be made in his memory at Staples High School, donations can be sent to Staples Tuitions Grant, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.

Westport News Editor Gary Jeanfaivre contributed to this report.