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Sant Bani School students find body of suicide victim at Wilmot camp

A two-day camp retreat in Wilmot for seventh- and eighth-grade students was cut short Tuesday after the body of a 52-year-old man who authorities say committed suicide was discovered in a pond on the premises.

Wilmot police Chief David White did not identify the man but said he was a resident of Wilmot. White’s department responded to Camp Wilmot about 11:30 a.m. after receiving calls from school officials.

The students arrived at the camp Tuesday morning from Sant Bani School in Sanbornton. In a letter to parents, Head of School Kent Bicknell said several students and a teacher discovered the body.

“All students and staff were safe, and students were immediately moved inside and away from the area,” he said. “The students engaged in a planned activity, had lunch, and then returned to campus where they continued their group activities and had a pizza dinner.”

White said a representative from the state medical examiner’s office was called to the scene and has ruled the death a suicide. He said the victim had no affiliation with the camp or the school, and that the pond was near his home.

“He had a lot of things going on in his life that I can’t go into,” White said.

The 200-acre camp, located just east of the Gile State Forest, hosts summer sessions through August and is rented by groups such as Sant Bani, an independent K-12 school, during the rest of the year. Maintenance Manager Don Emerson said the pond spans about 3 acres and is accessible to the public.

Brooke Pearsall, director of advancement at Sant Bani, said the students – 29 in total – were taking part in a pre-school bonding retreat. She said two school counselors were being made available to students, and that the group planned to complete the outing this week, but at another camp.

“This was a sensitive and challenging situation for our community,” Bicknell said in his letter Tuesday. “But our students, faculty and staff supported one another, and had a good day together.”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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