FORTVILLE — You could count on Tristan Carson — for a laugh, a smile, an encouraging word at just the right moment.

A leader in the Mt. Vernon High School band, he always seemed to know what quirky comment to make to keep his fellow musicians’ spirits up during long and grueling rehearsals, his friends say.

Right when they were feeling they’d had enough, it was Tristan who’d make a joke and send everyone into a fit of laughter. Then it was right back to work, but this time, the mood was a bit brighter.

Story continues below gallery

Those who knew Tristan say they are holding onto those happy memories as they cope with the 18-year-old’s sudden death Thursday morning. A Mt. Vernon senior on the cusp of graduation, Tristan was found unresponsive in his Fortville home.

Investigators believe Tristan died of natural causes. He had suffered from seizures, and he might have had a fatal seizure in the middle of the night, Chief Deputy Coroner Rudy Nylund said.

An autopsy was scheduled Thursday afternoon to confirm those suspicions, Nylund said. Results were not available at press time.

Tristan is the son of Thomas and Paige Carson of Fortville, and has a twin brother, Ian.

Emergency crews were called to the family’s home in the 600 block of Lighthouse Drive in Fortville around 7 a.m. Thursday after the teen’s parents couldn’t wake him, coroners said.

Tristan is the second Mt. Vernon Community School student to die unexpectedly this week. Mt. Comfort Elementary School second-grader Matthew Clegg died Sunday at an Indianapolis hospital after being found unconscious in his parents’ McCordsville home. Matthew suffered peritonitis, a tear in his colon that officials said is nearly incurable.

Thursday marked the last day of school for Mt. Vernon students. Tristan and his fellow seniors were to report to the high school for graduation practice before heading home, students said.

During the rehearsal for their big day, seniors shared fond memories of Tristan, writing notes on a banner to honor him, school officials said.

Many band members flocked to their orchestra room to talk with counselors and mourn together, said John Upchurch, a Mt. Vernon senior band member.

The news of his death stunned his classmates, Upchurch said. Tristan was always positive, joyful and encouraging, he added.

“I don’t think he’s said anything negative in his whole life,” he said. “He was always happy.”

The band often feels like a family to its members, director Derek Ellinger said. Losing someone as essential to that family as Tristan is a real shock, he said.

Tristan joined the band in middle school and played in the percussion section, a fixture behind a drum set who helped earn a gold-rating at a state contest this year, Ellinger said.

Thursday, the music the students would have made was silenced, replaced by a somber quiet, said Lucas Lee, a senior band member. It was evidence of the despair many were feeling, he said.

“Tristan was a light in the band,” Lucas said. “When things got hard, you could always count on him to brighten the mood.”

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or