KINGSTON, N.H. — Pentucket Middle School teacher Mark Worrall was killed early yesterday morning in an accident on Exeter Road (Route 111).
Police said Worrall was coming out of Pheasant Run Drive when he failed to stop at the intersection of Route 111. His Toyota 4Runner went across the highway and struck a tree. He was later pronounced dead at Exeter Hospital in Exeter, N.H., Kingston police Chief Donald Briggs said.
The accident remains under investigation, although alcohol and drugs do not appear to be factors in the crash, Briggs said.
A father of three, Worrall had been playing hockey with friends in Haverhill earlier Saturday night. Worrall, 49, lived at 316 Front St. in Exeter.
A cancer survivor who had a passion for science, Worrall was described yesterday as a passionate teacher who pushed students to be their best. Worrall was an oceanographer who taught eighth-grade science for the Team Jefferson eighth-grade group at PRMS.
The Middle School building is open today from noon to 2 p.m. for grief counseling for students, adults and community members. Counseling services will continue Tuesday and through the week as needed, Livingston said.
Pentucket schools are closed today for Martin Luther King Day.
Through the fellowship with Earthwatch Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the planet through scientific research, Worrall studied bottlenose dolphins in the Mediterranian Sea on the Amvrikikos coast of Greece in May.
To bring that experience back to his students he shared his research through a blog that posed questions for students to consider, a Web cam teleconference and a public presentation at Pentucket along with student Sarah Soucy in October.
"Teachers, staff and students will miss his dedication and passion for teaching," said West Newbury School Committee representative Heather Conner. " I am so sorry for the loss for his current students on Team Jefferson and his fellow teachers. My daughter Christine says he was a really good and really nice teacher."
Joe D'Amore, also a member of the Pentucket School Committee, said his daughter Lianna had Worrall as a teacher.
"He challenged her and all his students and inspired them to fulfilling their potential as students and discovering the wonders of the scientific process," D'Amore said.
He said his daugher told him, "Mr. Worrell asked me every Friday about my progress. He was a hard grader but a really nice person and he really cared about everybody in the class."
Maria Gray, president of the Pentucket teachers union, said the Pentucket community will rally again in the wake of tragedy.
"All of us recognize the loss for our Pentucket community, and the sadness students and staff will bear in the coming days," she said. "Thankfully, we have one another to turn to in such sorrowful times."
Middle school staff was informed of his death yesterday. Superintendent Paul Livingston sent out a statement to parents via e-mail.
"I'm sad to inform you that Grade 8 Science Teacher, Mark Worrall, on Team Jefferson (White), died in a car accident last evening in Kingston, N.H.," the statement said. "Mark was a longtime PRSD faculty member who recently was awarded a fellowship from the Earthwatch Institute to provide an opportunity for our students to be involved with live scientific research. We extend our sincere sympathy to his family, friends, and colleagues."
It is the latest in what has become a series of tragedies in the Pentucket school system in recent months.
On Dec. 29, senior Matthew McCarthy collapsed and died after a Pentucket High School varsity hockey practice. An autopsy proved inconclusive. On Friday night, his jersey was retired and presented to his parents on the ice before a game against Amesbury High.
Just over two weeks prior, Dec. 14, former West Newbury Page Elementary School teacher and Pentucket Fine and Performing Arts Foundation board member Val Corradino died unexpectedly in her Merrimac home. Corradino had been teaching at the Tilton School in Haverhill.
Staff writers Jill Harmacinski and Will Courtney and correspondent Jennifer Solis contributed to this report.