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High-school
Treacherous winds and cold water played role in boating accident that killed a Deep Run football player

High wind and cold water are to blame for a boating accident on Lake Anna that claimed the life of a Deep Run High School football player on April 27, according to an investigation by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Gabe Henderson, 17, died after the boat in which he was riding hit a shoal, took on water and sank. The three other individuals on the boat, identified only as Henrico County high school students, survived.

The teens were not using alcohol or speeding when the accident occurred, according to Paige Pearson, a spokeswoman for the DGIF. A cause of death has not been determined, and the investigation is still ongoing.

The wind was especially strong, causing white caps on the surface of the water, which may have obstructed the shoal. Water came over the bow, and as the 18-to-20-foot boat began to sink, the four teenagers disembarked and tried walking to shore, only to find the water got deeper away from the shoal. The water temperature was 61 degrees, which is cold enough that a submerged person can struggle to control his or her breathing.

One of the four swam to shore and reached the bank. The others tried to swim but became distressed and somehow were separated. A nearby homeowner witnessed the teens struggling, boarded his boat and took off into the water. He rescued two of them.

After returning the pair to shore, the neighbor, who was not named in the investigation, returned to the water to look for Henderson but was unable to find him. A dive team discovered Henderson’s body about four hours later.

Authorities raised the boat from the water and found unused life vests aboard. It is unclear if there was damage to the boat.

At Deep Run High School, a memorial has been erected between the student parking lot and the football stadium that stretches 13 parking spots wide. The words “Live like 10,” a reference to Henderson’s football jersey number, were printed in large black paperboard letters and hammered into the small patch of grass.

There is a giant No. 10 formed by royal blue Solo cups jammed into the chain-link fence, 59 photos blown up and fastened with zip ties and 207 bouquets of flowers, soaked from several days of rain, set neatly along the ground.

The crowds of students that gathered last week have diminished, but occasionally a car will enter the parking lot and ease past the reminders of the young man’s life.

MARK GORMUS/TIMES-DISPATCH 

A memorial for Gabe Henderson along the fence at Deep Run High School stadium Tues. April 28, 2020.

Henderson, a junior at Deep Run, played football and basketball and ran track. The school’s basketball coach, Justin Hayes, remembers how much Henderson matured during his high school years.

Henderson had played middle school and AAU basketball, but when he got to Deep Run in the ninth grade, he decided not to join the school team. He changed his mind in the 10th grade, and he wanted to leap over junior varsity and enroll in the varsity.

It doesn’t work like that, Hayes informed the youngster. You can’t just skip a year of basketball and expect to return at a high level. You need repetitions if you expect to be good.

So Henderson reluctantly tried out for the JV. He made the team but later injured his shoulder and missed the season. When junior year came, he wanted to try out for the varsity again, even though he hadn’t played basketball in two years.

Hayes was brutally honest, telling him, “I’m not quite sure about your maturity yet.”

But in the months to come, Henderson proved his coach wrong. A different version of Henderson showed up at tryouts, one who proved he was prepared for the rigors of varsity basketball. Hayes did something he has never done in his 16 years as a coach — he put a player with two years of rust on the varsity roster.

“I don’t know what prompted that maturity, whether it was age or somebody got to him or whatever the case was,” Hayes said.

Henderson was tall and sturdy — 6-foot-3, 200 pounds — the kind of player good at driving to the basket. Hayes would tell him not to shoot 3-pointers in games. One night, the opportunity arose to take a 3, and Henderson went for it. He made the shot, and he turned to let Hayes know about it.

Henderson became a better 3-point shooter as the season went on, and he eventually finished 8 of 26 (31%) for the season. He was a role player on the team, averaging 16 minutes, 2 points and 4 rebounds.

JOE MAHONEY/TIMES-DISPATCH  

Henrico’s James Wallace III (left) and Deep Run’s Gabe Henderson pursue a loose ball during the Warriors’ victory.

His best sport was football, where he played wide receiver. In 2019, he caught 26 passes for 461 yards and five touchdowns. The Wildcats finished the year 11-1 and enjoyed one of their best seasons ever. After the football season ended, he was offered scholarships by the College of William & Mary and Virginia Military Institute.

More than that, he was the kind of friend who other students wanted to be around and the kind of student who teachers wanted in their classes, Hayes said.

“He had an infectious spirit about him, so he’s just going to be really missed,” Hayes added.

A foundation to assist student-athletes at Deep Run will be started in his name, called the Gabe Henderson Live Like 10 Foundation, according to his obituary.

More:

Deep Run football player dies in boating accident on Lake Anna


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Local
Hanover supervisors clear path for Wegmans project after contentious public hearing. Residents plan to appeal.

After a five-hour public hearing Wednesday, the Hanover County Board of Supervisors voted 4-3 after midnight to accept new zoning conditions for a 220-acre property at the intersection of Sliding Hill and Ashcake Roads.

The decision clears a path for Wegmans to build a 1.7 million-square-foot distribution center there despite outcry from hundreds of neighbors.

Supervisors Faye Prichard, Angela Kelly-Wiecek and Sue Dibble voted against the changes, citing objections raised by project opponents.

“It is abundantly clear to me that faith in our local government has suffered greatly in this process,” Kelly-Wiecek said after the vote.

Opponents said they expected the board would approve the changes, and are still devising plans for how to appeal the decision in Circuit Court.

“We have 30 days to file an appeal,” said Chris French, a member of a coalition of neighbors opposed to the project. “Like I said, I would expect it.”

Supervisors who voted for the zoning changes said they didn’t want to impede the $175 million project and the 700 jobs it’s supposed to create. The Rochester, N.Y.-based grocery chain could have proceeded with modified plans regardless of the vote, a lawyer for Wegmans and county officials said.

Chairman Aubrey “Bucky” Stanley saw a choice between fostering development or rejecting it at the risk of a real estate tax increase.

“Thirty-seven years [on this board] and I’ve never voted for a tax rate increase. And I don’t plan to,” he said. “Hanover County needs jobs.”

Hundreds of nearby residents have voiced fears that the center will create congestion and quality-of-life issues while lowering neighboring property values.

Prichard and Kelly-Wiecek both represent the communities around the project site. Dibble said she could not ignore the massive opposition even though her South Anna District constituents are not directly affected.

“I will represent the will of the people,” she said.

The county announced the project in December alongside a state-supported $6.8 million incentive package the supervisors immediately approved, to the dismay of critics who wanted more public engagement.

Those concerns returned anew Wednesday as the county worked to balance government-mandated social distancing rules during the coronavirus pandemic with residents’ rights to weigh in.

About 20 people signed up to speak in opposition to the project; three community members spoke in favor of it.

County officials also read more than half of the 60 comments residents submitted by email and phone ahead of the meeting. Nearly all of them were opposed.

“I do take a little bit of satisfaction in county staff reading emails about how inept and unethical they were. But it left a lot to be desired from inflection and being able to read the room,” said Rod Morgan, a local resident opposed to the project.

While the property has been zoned for industrial use for three decades, Wegmans sought to amend special zoning conditions the county adopted in 1995 to protect the surrounding residential community.

In exchange for some allowances, such as taller building heights and light poles, Wegmans offered to create larger buffers between the property and surrounding roads and a requirement for its trucks to use only Sliding Hill Road. It also offered to help pay for road improvements in the area.

Supervisors who voted for the new proffers said they think it will help protect the community better than the current zoning conditions.

After the vote, Supervisor W. Canova Peterson sought to clarify that the county did not choose the location for the project.

He said that the county was competing with other states and localities through the Mid-Atlantic region to land the economic development deal, and that Wegmans chose the site after evaluating several locations the county marketed.

“There’s been too many insinuations of how this process took place. The fact of the matter is the county did not put Wegmans on this site,” he said. “It’s very important to note that nothing nefarious was going on whatsoever.”

Opponents of the project said they are considering an appeal of the county’s decision. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality also needs to approve a special permit for the project because there are protected wetlands on the property.

The state agency may choose to hold a public hearing on the permit application, per the request of residents in the area following an open comment period that ended last week.


Virginia
Two more die at Canterbury, but nursing facility now recovering from COVID-19

The worst appears to be over at Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, but the skilled nursing facility in western Henrico County recorded its first deaths in weeks from a COVID-19 outbreak that has now killed 51 residents since mid-March.

Dr. Jim Wright, medical director at Canterbury, said Thursday that two residents have died in the past nine days. A 78-year-old man died at a local hospital April 29, and an 85-year-old man died Tuesday in the facility’s palliative care unit for residents who choose, with their families, not to seek hospital treatment for mortal conditions.

The second death was a resident in the center’s memory care wing who previously had tested negative for the virus, but Wright said he most likely died from aspiration pneumonia. “He died with COVID, but not of COVID,” Wright said.

However, Canterbury has medically cleared almost all of its previously infected residents and begun taking COVID-19 patients from hospitals to recover in a facility that now has more hard-won experience with the disease than any other in Virginia.

Six patients with the disease have been admitted to the facility from Virginia hospitals, and two have returned home after recovery, Wright said.

Canterbury now houses about 130 residents, including around 30 who never tested positive, but almost all of the remaining residents who were infected have recovered, based on two tests administered within 24 hours. Wright said he expects the results of the second round of testing for the last 10 residents in recovery as early as Friday.

“Canterbury is becoming a post-convalescent facility,” Wright said.

The center briefly had the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 of any long-term care facility in the country from an outbreak that began on March 18.

Canterbury also helped to prove a new method of testing for the disease that the Virginia Department of Health began promoting aggressively this week to identify people with COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, prisons or any other congregate setting. The Health Department has compiled a list of more than 100 facilities for “point prevalence testing,” in which all residents and staff in a facility are tested to determine where the disease has spread.

Henrico County had pushed strongly for widespread testing at Canterbury after the first deaths in late March, but national and state public health policy then reserved scarce testing resources for nursing home residents who showed symptoms of the virus or had been directly exposed by someone already known to be infected.

However, a study of residents in a stricken nursing home outside of Seattle raised concerns about asymptomatic carriers — people who spread COVID-19 without showing any of the disease’s typical symptoms. Henrico health teams tested all residents and direct-care staff at Canterbury on March 30 and confirmed 108 residents were positive for COVID-19, including 16 who already had died.

But more half of the 92 residents confirmed to have the disease had not shown any symptoms, prompting Canterbury to change the way it housed residents and deployed staff to care for them.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” Wright said Thursday. “Without the point-prevalence testing, it would have been even worse.”

Meanwhile Thursday, Beth Sholom Senior Living, another facility in western Henrico that has been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak, also reported progress.

“I’m happy to report that over the past 8 days, there have been no new coronavirus cases among our residents or staff,” President and CEO Morris S. Funk wrote in a letter to residents and their families.

On April 30, Beth Sholom said it had 29 confirmed cases of the disease in its health care center. Beth Sholom publicly reports COVID-19 cases but not deaths.


Business
UPDATE: Nordstrom confirms it will permanently close its store at Short Pump Town Center

Short Pump Town Center is losing Nordstrom, one of its highbrow anchor tenants.

The Seattle-based retailer is permanently closing its store, the chain confirmed Thursday afternoon.

The 120,000-square-foot store, which opened in September 2003 when the mall did, is one of 16 full-line stores that Nordstrom is permanently shuttering across the country.

“We have had a good run with Nordstrom and have been very fortunate that they were with us since the beginning,” said Thomas E. “Tommy” Pruitt, whose family’s development company Pruitt Associates was one of the mall’s original developers and now owns 33.3% of the shopping center.

“I am not happy to see them leave,” Pruitt said.

Nordstrom told Brookfield Properties — one of the nation’s largest mall operators, which owns the remaining part of Short Pump Town Center — that its store there would not reopen, Pruitt said. Nordstrom temporarily closed all of its 378 stores in 40 states on March 17 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“These types of decisions are never easy because we realize what this means for our employees,” a Nordstrom spokeswoman said in a statement. “We selected these 16 stores based on a variety of factors, including the unique needs of the market, the current state of our business and real estate agreements.”

The chain had said Tuesday that it was permanently closing 16 of its 116 full-line stores and making other expense cuts in order to strengthen its business for the long-term. At the time of the announcement, it didn’t identify which stores would close.

The upscale retailer has been hit hard in recent years by falling sales and disappointing earnings.

“Our goal is to best position ourselves to serve customers in each market where we operate,” the spokeswoman said. “Because of the impacts COVID-19 has had on our business, we need to take a critical look at the physical footprint of our stores to determine which we will continue to operate. To respond to the impacts of COVID-19 and ensure we’re able to continue serving customers well into the future, we will be closing 16 of our fleet of full-line stores, including Nordstrom Richmond.”

Employees here and at the chain’s stores in the Southeast were told during an online meeting Thursday morning that Short Pump and other stores, including those in Miami, Naples, Fla., and Annapolis, Md., were closing.

***

Landing Nordstrom at Short Pump Town Center in western Henrico County was a coup for the mall’s developers and for retailing in the Richmond region.

Nordstrom announced in April 2000 that it would be an anchor tenant along with Dillard’s and Hecht’s (now Macy’s) at the 1.2 million-square-foot shopping center.

It meant affluent consumers in the Richmond region could shop locally rather than drive to Tysons Corner Center in Northern Virginia to shop at Nordstrom and other trendy stores in the Washington area.

“We are thankful that they have been with us. They have been great partners,” Pruitt said.

Nordstrom began thinking about putting a store in the Richmond market when the chain opened in Tysons Corner Center in 1988 as the retailer’s first store on the East Coast.

In a 2003 interview, Pete Nordstrom, now the retailer’s president and chief brand officer, said the chain was ready for Richmond and Richmond was ready for it.

“We are going to Richmond because we want to be in Richmond, that is for sure,” Nordstrom said in that 2003 interview. “That is a center we have a lot of confidence in.”

Pruitt said the retailer’s departure will give the mall’s owners an opportunity to do something new or different in that space.

“They are at the front door of our mall,” he said. “Out of this will be an opportunity to do something with that site. It could be more restaurants or mixed use.”

Similar circumstances happened when the department store retailer Lord & Taylor had committed to putting a store at Short Pump 20 years ago but later decided not to build one, Pruitt said.

As a result, the mall’s owners reconfigured that then-open space and landed Saxon Shoes, The Cheesecake Factory, Orvis and Urban Outfitters.

“We made that a beautiful wing,” he said.

Brookfield Properties is an expert in repurposing malls, Pruitt said.

***

Losing Nordstrom has some tenants at Short Pump concerned.

“Being a prominent tenant in the Short Pump Town Center, they were a big draw in traffic to the mall,” said Kevin Reardon, co-owner of Franco’s Fine Clothier, a men’s clothing retailer that has been at the mall since it opened. It also has a location on Lakeside Avenue.

“It also benefited our store having them as neighbors,” Reardon said. “There is a kinship amongst most retailers in that if one has a customer that they cannot help, we do not hesitate to refer a customer to our fellow retailer down the road. We shared that with Nordstrom, as we do with our fellow local shops, and likewise benefited from that relationship.”

Gary Weiner, president of Saxon Shoes, which has operated a store at the mall since 2005, said the closing could hurt the shopping center.

“Nordstrom is a premier and quality retailer, and they bring good shoppers to their stores,” Weiner said. “It is going to do away with some traffic, that’s for sure.”

Nordstrom, which began in 1901 as a shoe retailer in downtown Seattle, is known for carrying a wide selection of shoes, including hard-to-find sizes and widths.

“It will be one less place in the mall to buy shoes and that may help our odds a little bit,” Weiner said. “But we would like every retailer to do well because if they do well that means we will be doing well. We like everybody to win.”

***

Nordstrom is restructuring its operations to increase its flexibility to focus more on its online operations.

It has been closing a handful of underperforming full-line stores in the past couple of years, including the 160,000-square-foot store at the MacArthur Center mall in downtown Norfolk in April 2019. Analysts have said those closings were necessary strategically.

In Virginia, the chain continues to operate two full-line stores — in Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and at Tysons Corner — and seven off-price stores called Nordstrom Rack.

The company has been spending money in recent years “to keep pace with rapidly changing customer expectations. The impact of COVID-19 is only accelerating the importance of these capabilities in serving customers,” Erik Nordstrom, the retailer’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

“More than ever, we need to work with flexibility and speed,” he said. “Our market strategy helps with both, bringing inventory closer to where customers live and work, allowing us to use our stores as fulfillment centers to get products to customers faster.”