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CLINTON, NC (WWAY) — An eight-year-old boy died Friday after a hunting accident in Bladen County. Family and friends gathered in Clinton for James Ethan Bartley’s funeral today. Meanwhile, his friends at school mourned their classmate.

“He felt like a brother to me,” friend and classmate Taleb Thompson said. “He felt like a brother to me, because we always played football and soccer.”

An empty desk in Mrs. Wells’s homeroom class served as a reminder of the loss Butler Avenue School suffered over the long holiday weekend.

Bartley died Friday while hunting with two other boys off Soup Haire Road near Elizabethtown. One of the boys dropped a .22-caliber rifle, which went off and shot Bartley in the side. He was airlifted to Chapel Hill, where he later died.

“It has been an unfortunate tragedy for all of us,” principal Vanessa Brown said. “On Wednesday you tell the students, you know, they’re going to have a holiday and for them to have a safe holiday, and that you’ll see them on Monday. Then to have something of this magnitude to happen before you could even get back on Monday… One thing I can say about Ethan is that he was a student that always had a smile on his face. The children loved him. The staff loved him. Everyone loved him.”

As his family grieves, so does his elementary school. Students and teachers at Butler Avenue School wore green ribbons today in honor of Bartley. With the memories fresh in their minds, emotions were high.

“He’s going to be greatly missed,” teacher Karen Randleman said. “He was a true asset to both of our classes, and he is going to be very much missed by faculty, staff, as well as all of his friends and peers in his classroom.”

Bartley’s family did not want to talk Monday, and his friends at school understand why.

“I really am sorry for his family’s loss,” Thompson said.

The Bladen County Sheriff’s Office says the accident is still under investigation. The Bladen County Department of Social Services and North Carolina Wildlife officers are also investigating.

Comment on this Story

  • he wasnt killed by a hunting accident i would know i was his friend he was killed because he and to other boys were playing in the woods and and one of the other boys wanted to show him his gun and he dropped it and it shot him :(

  • vtiger

    where were the adults ????

  • someoneWhoCares

    I happen to know the people who was involded.. so before anyone runs there mouth i suggust you hush.. because it was an accident

  • anne

    How sad for this family and I am sure that the older boy is feeling so much worse because he shot, though accidently, his friend. Sorry – but kids and guns don’t mix and now a family and friends are grieving over the loss of a loved one because of wrong decisions by many including the parents for leaving them alone.

  • Danielle

    He was not hunting and was not killed in a hunting accident. That is false. He was also not left unattended in anyway. He was at his familys house for thanksgiving and the neighbor wanted to show off a gun that was left at his house while HE was unattended. He then tripped causing the gun to go off and hit our precious Ethan. Our family is not in a place right now where we feel the media should feed on us so they are using any information they can get their hands on… Ethan had very attentive parents who were in the back yard but were unable to get to him before it was too late. His father was right there to comfort him and his mother, a nurse, was at work

  • DAWN0057

    Ethan’s parents were not there when this took place. In fact Ethan’s mom was at Sampson regional medical center working at this time. Ethan was next door at a neighbors house playing with children that he always plays with when they visit their grandma in Elizabeth town. This gun was found in an out door building. One of the other children found a gun and decided to take it out. His poor mom got the call at work while she was nursing a medical surgical unit. It was not a hunting accident, it was a tragic accident. Please pray and pray hard for our family.

  • Guest72347891379283

    wow. im sorry for the loss and the family and friends are all in my prayers. i def aint pointing fingers. i was doin the same thing when i was a kid. obviously the 2 friends were older than him.. im almost sure they wouldnt let him go without 2 other 8 year olds. this couldve been many other kids around here… something like this will open up the eyes of other parents so it wont happen again. im sorry that this had to happen to your family. i hope you all have all the support you need to gt thru this.

  • forevermissing you

    Ethan’s parents were not there when this took place. In fact Ethan’s mom was at work, working on a medical surgical floor, Ethan was next door playing with some children he always plays with when he visits his grandmother in Elizabeth town. The other children found a gun in a outside building that no one new they had got out, This is a true tragedy. Ethan will be forever missed, the story told was not exactly the truth. i love ethan.

  • Guest8888

    Who on earth allows their children to have guns and to go around killing animals for fun? What a sick society.

  • Guest20

    What’s sick is someone who doesn’t have the full story attacking a grieving family after their child dies in a terrible accident. You should be trying to comfort them, instead of attacking like a ravenous wolf.

  • Guest8889

    Before you comment on an article, why don’t you read the article and then the comments before you leave a comment. There was a comment apparently from a friend or family member that explained what happened. Your comment was totally uncalled for.

  • Dennis

    Who said they were shooting squirrels for fun? Most hunters eat what they kill.

  • Joe

    Killing for fun is a sign of metal issues…..

  • Kristy

    Just an FYI: His father, James Edward Bartley was not there. He was at work in Florida when he received a phone call about his child.

  • Guest1976

    You need to get your facts straight as well. Ethan’s mother was a t work and his father was also at work in Florida. The guy who was there was his mother’s live in boy friend and not Ethan’s father. There have been too many stories going around about this so called accident and they are all by the live in boy friend. You all better realize that he has a father and it’s not the one in North Carolina is very grief struck. His father was in Florida and is going to make sure that someone pays for this.

  • Marvel Attar

    I know and love this family. I love Ethan and his parents. I love his Grandparents,his Great Grandparents, as well as his Great Great Grandmother. Ethan was loved by all. I love his cousins and his aunts and uncles. I have known this family for many years, as they brought myself and my family into their loving homes and treated my family as a part of theirs. They are very warm, loving, caring, compassionate people, who reach out to others and share the love of God that lives within their hearts. The so called live in boyfriend, as you described him, is the Mother’s fiancé and is a caring, loving, wonderful man and father. He loved Ethan as his own and his heart is broken. Don’t try to paint him in a bad light, because you are very mistaken! They are a family. This was a tragic, tragic accident!!! It is no ones fault!!! Instead of trying to blame someone, prayer would be more productive and beneficial.

  • Anonymous

    Just to set the record straight. James E. Bartley was Ethan’s father. However, Brad who is the father of Ethan’s sister has lived in the same house hold for the past 8 years since he was 1. He was his dad also and James knows that. There are no hard feelings between the two families. Ethan was very loved by all. Please respect the privacy of both families. We are all grieving.

  • Guest1211

    Those who have negative comments really should keep them to themselves. I dont think any of you know the whole story or the tragedy this is to his family. I know his mom, one of my very best friends and you couldnt ask for a better mom. Ethan was well loved and cared for. So do everyone a favor and keep your nasty comments to yourself!

  • Guest8905328750938

    i cant believe people are pointing fingers when something this tragic happens. ITS NO ONES FAULT PEOPLE!

  • please

    need a Like button right here!
    come on wway do not make me log in everytime I want to like a comment.

  • Anon

    That is bullcrap brad was just as much of a dad to Ethan as James was!! Who was there every morning Ethan got put of bed ever since he was ten years old. James may have been his biological father but Brad gave a lot more to Ethan than just a last name.

  • guestfornow

    How could Brad have been there for Ethan since he was 10 when Ethan was only 8 when he was killed? Brad’s stories have changed from the kids where running through the woods when a branch took the safety off the gun and the gun went off, the gun was found in a building behind the house, that Brad went to Elizabethtown and left him there with the two older kids that in one story was only 8 and 9, and also that it was a family members gun. What’s the truth Brad? Why don’t you want anyone to talk to the media? Come clean.

  • Peace Maker

    It saddens me to see such hurtful comments after having to lay to rest our precious Ethan. Ethan was a very loved and blessed little boy. His mother adored him. No one should have to experience the grief she has had to endure. How does saying all these hurtful comments help this painful situation? It was a tragic accident. I’ve seen how his mother is suffering, his step dad, and his dad. They are all mourning the lost of their child. Ethan was blessed with mulitple families that loved and cherished him.
    Psalms 147:3 He heals the broken heartened, binding up their wounds.

    Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
    Please do not cause strife between these families. Every memeber of all sides of the families loved Ethan and are mourning and crying for him. Let’s be peace makers and be respectful to his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters,cousins, and friends who have had their hearts broken.

  • Southern Born

    Tears are hard to hold when I read this article, my heart goes out to the family. I have no experience to compare, but I do have children. He is an angel now and he will be waiting. Im sure the Lord will wrap him with wings of a dove and will fill his heart with joy. He waits for us all,with friends of many, including Jesus.

    His world is full of all that he desrves and he would not want us to judge anyone I’m sure he forgives for the accident. He bears no burden and leaves knowing he was loved.

    For those who were there, live your lives as if he is watching and waiting and you will see him again.

    Love to you from My Family.


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