Friends, classmates remember Athens student killed in bus, train collision

Friends and classmates honor 13-year-old Christopher Bonilla with handwritten messages at...
Friends and classmates honor 13-year-old Christopher Bonilla with handwritten messages at Athens Middle School. Bonilla died Friday when a train hit his school bus. (Blake Holland/East Texas News)
Updated: Jan. 28, 2019 at 4:49 PM CST
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East Texas News at 6.

ATHENS, TX (KLTV) - East Texans are coming together to pay their respects after Friday’s tragic wreck involving an Athens ISD school bus and a Union Pacific train.

On Monday, friends and classmates of 13-year-old Christopher Bonilla posted handwritten messages at the entrance of Athens Middle school where Chris was a 7th grader.

Messages reading “We love and miss you,” “Gone but never forgotten,” and “#FlyHigh” covered the windows in blue and pink writing.

"He was always a really talkative person. He always liked to make people laugh. Just always liked seeing people happy. And he would always put everybody else before himself.”

Seventh graders Kaylani and Franky were both close with Chris. Kaylani is his cousin. Both describe him as a boy who would lovingly pick on his friends and say he had a sense of humor that shined brightest during tough times.

“He would always find a way to make everybody laugh in a sad time. And that’s what I’ll miss most from Chris.”

There’s a growing memorial at the railroad crossing where Chris lost his life. Along with flowers and a cross, there’s also a toy figurine from Chris’s favorite video game.

"He did play soccer. He liked football. And he loved playing Fortnite.”

Chris also had dreams of becoming a pro football player. He’s now being remembered by those who loved him and are finding it hard to understand.

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"I feel really devastated that it happened. Just doesn’t feel real to me yet.”

On Monday, there were 17 grief counselors spread across all Athens ISD campuses to help students who are struggling to understand how something like this could happen. Athens ISD spokewoman Toni Clay said counselors will be available as long as needed.

“We’re just going to take the temperature of each campus and see how the kids are responding and what their needs are and then we’ll adjust as we need to,” Clay said.

The funeral for Christopher Bonilla will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at the Athens High School gymnasium. There will be no school at any campus that day. Any athletic events previously scheduled to be held at AHS on Friday will be rescheduled.

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