Former state lawmaker Dewayne Bunch, who was critically injured while breaking up a high school fight last year, died Wednesday. He was 50.
Bunch, who taught math and science at Whitley County High School for 17 years, suffered a head injury during the fight between two boys in the high school’s cafeteria in April 2011.
He was punched in the head and fell on the cafeteria floor, hitting his head on the tile, Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell said after the incident, which was filmed by security cameras.
The critical injury forced Bunch to resign his seat in the state House as he rehabilitated in Atlanta and later Cardinal Hill in Lexington. He was still in rehab one year after his injury, according to an April 12 post on a Facebook page dedicated to Bunch and his family.
Bunch’s wife, Williamsburg Republican Rep. Regina Bunch, won a special election without opposition.
House Republican leaders said Dewayne Bunch represented “someone who is committed to serving the public, whether it be as a school teacher, a member of the armed forces, his church, and his neighbors” in a statement released Wednesday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Regina, her family and all those who knew and loved Dewayne as they deal with his passing,” the statement read.
Family members are asking for privacy as they grieve Bunch’s death, and funeral arrangements will be made available once complete, according to the statement.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said that Bunch showed “tremendous potential as a legislator” during his brief time in the House.
“On behalf of the Kentucky House, I want to extend condolences to the Bunch family during this difficult time and want them to know they are in our thoughts and prayers,” he said in a statement.
Gov. Steve Beshear said he and first lady Jane Beshear were saddened by news of Bunch’s death. The former legislator shared common goals of improving Kentucky, especially in education, Beshear said.
“He was a dedicated teacher and legislator, and he will be missed,” the governor said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, particularly his wife Regina, who is serving admirably in her husband’s position as state legislator."
From Washington, D.C., U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell shared similar condolences, saying Bunch served Kentucky and the nation “with distinction” as a teacher, legislator and soldier in the Kentucky National Guard.
“Elaine and I send our condolences to his wife, Regina, his family, and all those at Whitley County High School that knew and loved him,” McConnell said in a statement.
Bunch, who beat longtime lawmaker Charles Siler in the 2010 Republican primary election, was in his first term when he was forced to resign.
The two boys involved in the fight, age 15 and 16 at the time, face first- and third-degree assault charges in Whitley Circuit Court.
The office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Trimble, who prosecutes cases in Whitley and McCreary counties, declined to comment on the case when asked whether new charges would be filed because the defendants are juveniles.