Two friends' deaths just days apart have left a small South Jersey community and the teens' high school in mourning as a new year gets underway.
Ado Halkic, a 15-year-old student at Burlington Township High School, was found hanged in his bedroom inside his family's home on Jan. 1, a short time after he asked his dad to order him chicken wings and watch football with him, his father Adam Halkic told NBC10's Cydney Long.
"No word, nothing," said Halkic. "No discussion, no note, that killed me."
Four days later, his good friend and fellow Burlington Township HS student, Mike Steve, 18, was also found hanged inside his Burlington City home -- a home he and his family had recently moved to, according Halkic.
Just two days earlier, Steve had spoken at Ado's life celebration about staying strong during difficult times.
Despite their age and grade differences -- Halkic was a freshman and Steve a senior -- the two were longtime friends who trained together at the JBM Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy in Edgewater Park for about eight years, said Halkic.
These guys didn't show anything," JBM Gym Director Victor Lopez said. "That's what makes it even more shocking. Both of them were a part of our Jiu Jitsu Academy that we treated as extended family..."
The high school released a statement regarding the boys' deaths. Read the full statement here,
"Needless to say, the past few days have been painful for our entire community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have been touched by the sudden death of two of our high school students," the school said. "It is in times like these that we need to come together as a community to support each other."
Both the high school and the jiu jitsu academy held events Tuesday night to offer guidance and support on how to cope with losing a child.
What prompted the boys' deaths is unclear at this time. An investigation is underway.
No funeral arrangements have been announced.
SUICIDE PREVENTION: If you know someone who needs help, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).