LAKE STATION | Lake Station on Monday was mourning the death of a River Forest High School cheerleader who was seriously injured in an ATV accident last week.
Haley Ralph died at a South Bend hospital where she was taken after Wednesday's accident, Fire Chief Chuck Fazekas said.
Ralph, a freshman at River Forest High School and daughter of Lake Station firefighter Chad Ralph, suffered a head injury when she fell off the back of an ATV in the 4500 block of Liverpool Road.
Haley Ralph was a cheerful student who treated others with kindness and respect, River Forest High School Principal Randall Horka said.
"She was an all-around awesome kid," Horka said. "There's not enough good that I can say, because she was just the perfect model student."
Ralph was captain of her eighth-grade cheerleading squad and was a varsity cheerleader at the high school.
Horka said students and school staff had a hard time last week after learning Ralph was in the hospital. The school implemented a crisis plan, and local therapists and district social workers were on hand to help Ralph's peers, he said.
"I spoke with Haley's mom on Thursday morning, and she said she really appreciated the different messages being sent on Facebook and social media," Horka said. "Her family was reading those to her in the hospital."
He estimated more than 200 students, school staff and residents attended a vigil for Ralph on Friday night at Columbus Park. Firetrucks, vehicles and motorcycles drove through Lake Station on Sunday after her death.
River Forest is a small school district, and students and staff are heartbroken by Ralph's death, Horka said. Many have asked how they can help.
"In the immediate near term, just treat your peers and others as Haley did," Horka said.
She was the kind of student who could sit at a different lunch table every day and fit right in, he said.
"She didn't have one particular group she could fit in with," he said. "She was just cheerful, nice, what every parent would want from their daughter."
The outpouring of support for Ralph's family has been heartwarming, Horka said.
"As a community and as a school we’re kind of all in this together, and so it does bring a little bit of a sense of comfort," he said.
River Forest Community School Corp. Superintendent Steven Disney said the whole community is grieving.
The district is waiting to hear if it can assist Ralph's family or the community, he said.
"This isn't something you ever prepare for, and it's a tight-knit community," Disney said. "Our hearts are with the family."