NEW PHILADELPHIA — In a poignant tribute to a fallen classmate, the graduating class at Buckeye Career Center left an empty chair for the late Mitchell Russell, who died in a tragic auto accident on Oct. 27, 2018.

During the Buckeye Career Center’s high school awards ceremony, students and staff paid tribute to Russell, who was an energy operations senior at the school. To honor his memory as a member of their class, classmates came up with the idea to remember him at their ceremony by filling his empty seat with his graduation cap and gown, hard hat and high-visibility vest.

Janette Russell, Mitchell’s mother, appreciated the special thoughts from her son’s former friends and class members.

"As hard as it was to see Mitchell’s empty seat," she said, "our family is very grateful to Buckeye Career Center for the beautiful tribute to our son and brother."

Mitchell died in an early morning crash off Stonecreek Road, just north of Joyce Hill Road in York Township, less than two miles south of New Philadelphia. He was reportedly northbound when his vehicle went off the right side of the road and struck a tree, according to state troopers with the New Philadelphia Post of the Ohio Highway Patrol.

Mitchell was born in Dover, Ohio on February 19, 2001, to David B. and Janette A. Russell.  His obituary noted that he loved being outdoors, spending time with his family and friends, riding his four wheeler and dirt bike and was an avid sportsman.

He is survived by his parents, David and Janette; brother, Braden R. Russell, of Newcomerstown; grandparents, Bill and Kathleen Green, Brenda Russell, Roy and Linda Russell, all of Newcomerstown; great-grandmother, Grace Babcock, of Otsego; several aunts, uncles and cousins; and his favorite canine companions, Bosley and Cooper.