WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (AP) – Family members and former classmates said they’re still in shock after a 14-year-old Utah boy fatally shot himself with a miniature toy cannon earlier this week.
After Robby Ostberg was pronounced dead at his Tremonton home with major head injuries, mother Sara Ostberg described her son as mechanically gifted.
“He was so mechanically inclined,” Sara Ostberg told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “He fixed everything. He tinkered with everything. That’s how this happened.”
Tremonton police said Robby Ostberg was playing with the toy in his living room at about 7:30 a.m. Monday when the cannon went off. The boy was struck in the face and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Authorities haven’t released detailed information about what kind of projectile hit Ostberg, but grandmother Lucille Hertel told the Deseret News her grandson sometimes wrapped gunpowder in tin foil and fired it a few feet away with the cannon.
The toy is described as an 18th century replica with a 6-inch metal barrel and a wooden base. Authorities said it had no built-in firing mechanism and was meant to be purely decorative. Hertel said a neighbor gave it to the boy several years ago.
The boy’s father didn’t know Ostberg had access to gunpowder, Hertel said.
“It was an accident that shouldn’t have happened,” she said Tuesday. “It was just a toy.”
A small group of ninth-graders, dressed in their Sunday best, gathered Tuesday at Bear River Middle School in Garland to show respect for their former classmate.
Principal Eldon Petersen told the Standard-Examiner of Ogden that Ostberg had fallen behind in his schoolwork in late 2010 due to health issues and was taken off the rolls in March 2011. He didn’t re-enroll this school year, and Petersen was unsure whether the boy was being home-schooled.
Classmates described him as a boy who could fix anything, who tended to be shy in large groups, and who wouldn’t retaliate against students who made fun of him.
“If someone dissed on him, he would take it as a compliment,” said Caitelin Olive. “He treated everyone with respect.”
The family has set up an account with Wells Fargo to raise money for a funeral, which is scheduled for Friday.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)