Bristol, Va. superintendent found dead at Breaks Interstate Park

BRISTOL, VA (WJHL) – A Breaks Interstate Park official confirmed Friday afternoon that Bristol, Va. Schools Superintendent Rex Gearheart was found dead Thursday night at the park.

Austin Bradley, Breaks Interstate Park superintendent, said around 11 p.m. Thursday a maintenance employee notified him of hearing a gunshot near one of the hotel units at the park. gearheart wreath

Bradley said he and another ranger responded to the call and treated it as an active shooter situation. He said they then cleared the area to ensure guest safety.

Courtesy Bristol, VA Public Schools

“Upon arriving at the area, we saw a person lying in the parking lot of the hotel unit,” Bradley said. “Upon investigation, we found out it was Mr. Rex Gearheart.”

Bradley confirmed that Gearheart was pronounced dead at the scene. He said Gearheart was found alone.

“Right now, it appears that the cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but we are actively investigating to rule out any other possibilities,” Bradley said.

According to Bradley, Gearheart had a room at the Catawba Lodge and said Gearheart was located in the front parking lot of the lodge.

Bristol, Virginia Public Schools confirmed Gearheart’s death Friday morning in an emailed statement to News Channel 11.

Courtesy Bristol, VA Public Schools

BVPS Assistant Superintendent Gary Ritchie asked that everyone remember the Gearheart family and the BVPS community as they grieve the loss of Gearheart.

Ritchie added that a crisis team of counselors would be present at the Bristol Virginia School Board office throughout the day Friday for anyone who wishes to speak with a team member.

Gearheart had more than 18 years of experience in education.

Prior to coming to Bristol, Gearheart was a school principal in Giles County, Va., and Radford, Va., and taught English in Radford and Bedford County, Va.

Gearheart served as assistant superintendent for four years and was promoted to superintendent, where he had served for the past two years.

The Virginia Education Association President Meg Gruber issued the following statement Friday on Gearheart’s passing:

We are saddened to hear of the passing of Bristol Superintendent Rex Gearheart. Rex cared deeply about every person he knew, especially the students of and staff in BVPS. He is the type of man who you want to teach for—one who cared about you as a person first, and as an employee second. He was a champion of children in need and a capable and inspiring leader. Rex was a Virginia Education Association member for many years and his leadership in calling attention to the needs of children in poverty prompted VEA in 2014 to honor him with the “President’s Award of Distinction.” I remember how he hated to close schools, wondering how hungry children would eat, so he organized volunteers to deliver food. For these and so many other reasons, the members of the Virginia Education Association grieve Rex’s passing. My deepest sympathy to his wife, his wonderful daughters, to the BVPS community, and to all those who knew him. We will miss him deeply.”

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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