Community mourns ‘bright, amazing’ 7-year-old

POULSBO — A 7-year-old Poulsbo Elementary student is being remembered as a bright, friendly boy after his life was taken in a tragic accident at a local fitness club Tuesday.

Ethan Smith, a first-grader, was struck by weight equipment while accompanying his father in Armstrong Fitness University. The boy sustained a head injury.

He was unconscious but breathing when paramedics arrived, and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead, said Poulsbo Fire Department spokesperson Jody Matson.

Armstrong Fitness was closed Wednesday and Thursday due, according to a message on its answering machine, to the “tragic death in our Armstrong Fitness family.”

Chris Case, spokesperson for the North Kitsap School District, said Thursday morning the Poulsbo Elementary campus was “peaceful,” as counselors made themselves available to students in need of extra support. E-mails and letters were sent home to parents Wednesday informing them of the school’s loss, along with information on helping grieving children.

“Ethan was a very bright, amazing boy who had many friends and was well known by other students and our staff. He will be greatly missed,” read the letter from Poulsbo Elementary Principal Jeannette Wolfe.

Poulsbo Police Chief Dennis Swiney said the department is conducting an incident report, a fact-finding process that will eventually be submitted to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office, as is normal procedure.

Case said the boy’s family requested not to be contacted by media.

Armstrong Fitness owner Ann Armstrong said Thursday the boy’s death is “too impossible to even fathom.”

“The whole gym family has suffered an incredible loss. Ethan and (the boy’s father) are both valued members of our family, very close, precious members of our family,” she said. “None of us will ever forget or recover from this.”

She said the gym has signs stating children are not allowed in the work out area.

Members must also sign a form detailing the same information.

“The facts are that we do have specific rules about the whereabouts of children when they’re accompanying their parent,” she said. “Unfortunately in this case that rule was not heeded and the result is absolutely devastating.”

The weight machine “basically was just overpowered,” resulting in it coming down on the boy, she explained, adding “If I had any way to bring him back, that would be my only wish at this time.”

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