EDGEWOOD — The friends were tight — some of the friendships began as toddlers while others joined the group in high school.
That’s made some parts of the accident even more tragic.
Three Moriarty High School students died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning during a sleepover inside a garage in Edgewood on Saturday night, according to Edgewood police.
One of the teens who died was Christopher Pearce, who was identified Monday evening by his older brother, Matthew.
Matthew said Christopher, 17, was the youngest of three boys adopted by their mother. Christopher also had two younger biological siblings who were adopted by Christopher’s aunt, so they were being raised as cousins in a tight-knit family in the mountain town of about 6,000 east of Albuquerque.
The three teens who died were staying at a fourth friend’s house.
Christopher had been friends with that teen since they were around 2 years old, Matthew said. He said the four friends decided to sleep in the garage and the friend who was hosting started to feel sick in the night and went inside, Matthew said.
He said that teen returned to the garage in the morning and found his three friends dead.
Matthew said one of the teens who died had lived with the Pearce family for a time.
Jerry D. Archibeque, a neighbor, said the friends would frequently spend time at the Edgewood house and had slept in the garage before.
Soccer, video games and girlfriend
Christopher was an avid soccer player and played for Moriarty High School, Matthew said. He said his brother also was a “video game nerd” who loved spending time with his friends and girlfriend.
“If he wasn’t playing video games or playing soccer, he was always hanging out with her or his friends,” Matthew said.
Matthew said his family has been supporting each other since they learned the news early Sunday morning. Friends and businesses in the small mountain community have also pledged their support, he said. The Pearce home was full of visitors and flowers Monday.
GoFundMe accounts have been organized for at least two of the families. Christopher’s memorial page shows him wearing a Carlsbad Caverns shirt and the photo showcases his mop of curly dark hair.
“It’s been devastating,” said Matthew, who is 24. “It’s never fun to have to try to plan your own brother’s funeral.”
In a news release, Edgewood Police Department Chief Roger Jimenez said a propane heater was found at the scene and investigators suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
The chief said in an email he wasn’t going to release the names of the teenagers because of their ages.
Propane heaters can be a source of carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas that can kill in minutes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 420 people in the United States die each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
In the Sunday release, Jimenez stressed the importance of carbon monoxide detectors in homes.
Moriarty High again reeling
Most Edgewood teens attend high school in Moriarty, about 12 miles to the east.
On Monday, social workers were available for counseling and emotional support for students, according to Edgewood-Moriarty School District Director of Learning Natalie Romero.
“Sometimes it doesn’t hit them until they walk into that classroom and they see the empty desk,” district Superintendent Teresa K. Salazar said. “It can trigger things.”
School officials allowed students the option of taking the day off. Several were seen visibly upset in the school library during the day.
Counselors, clergy members, people from the community and an emotional support dog were stationed at the library, where a small memorial for the students was set up.
Romero said many in the Moriarty-Edgewood community are still grieving another tragedy that struck the school three years ago. Brothers Mateo Sandoval, 14, and Pedro Sandoval, 16, died in a car crash on their way to Moriarty High School football team practice in January 2020.