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Norwin High School student dies

| Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, 3:48 p.m.

Constructing a 100-foot long split rail fence along a gritty trail was Mike Sweeney's vision to keep walkers a safe distance from a cliff in a North Huntingdon park.

The project would weave together his love for being outdoors while finally earning him the prestigious Eagle Scout rank, which he had been working toward since first grade.

Although Sweeney will never chop the wood or hammer the nails, the fence will be assembled, rail by rail, in his honor.

Michael T. Sweeney Jr., of North Huntingdon, died Sunday. He was 17.

“We will finish this project for him,” Don Brill, an assistant Scout Leader said, choking up. “We want the kid to get his Eagle Scout posthumously. We'll put a brass plaque on it. He is our Eagle.”

Sweeney became ill Sunday afternoon and was transported to Westmoreland Hospital. He was pronounced dead about an hour later at 2:40 p.m.

Because of his symptoms, an emergency room doctor mentioned the possibility of meningitis. Tests proved negative for the contagious disease, Kenneth Bacha, Westmoreland County coroner, said.

A cause and manner are still being determined, but Bacha said the death appears to be natural.

Sweeney enjoyed spending time camping with the Boy Scouts and hunting with his father, Brill said. Last year, Sweeney bagged a 5-point deer in Armstrong County.

“It was about being one with nature and having a love of the land and that was Mike,” Brill said.

A letter released to parents in the Norwin School District Monday announced Sweeney's death. Counselors and psychologists were available to talk to students, according to the letter.

Administrators said Sweeney's parents requested students honor their son by performing a random act of kindness, according to the letter.

As a senior at Norwin High School, Sweeney was a member of the boy's track team, Norwin Robotics Club and parishioner of St. Agnes Church.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.

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