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Teen, his grieving classmates victims of ‘he’s dead’ text hoax

FISHERS – An apparent text message hoax had many friends and classmates of a suburban Indianapolis teenager believing he was dead until he boarded a somber school bus.

Word of 14-year-old Michael Sinkfield’s death spread over social media after a text message was sent from his missing cellphone Sunday night by someone pretending to be his father saying he had died in a car crash, the Indianapolis Star reported Thursday.

As Michael’s friends at Riverside Junior High in Fishers told others, a picture of him soon had more than 2,300 “likes” on Instagram.

Michael said he lost his phone Sunday. When he tried later to log into Facebook, he found his password had been changed and didn’t know about the messages of condolence being posted on his Facebook page before he headed to school Monday morning.

“When I got on the bus in the morning, people were looking at me happy, but other people were crying,” Michael said. “I asked them what was going on, and they told me what happened.”

When classmate Micah Lee saw Michael on the bus Monday morning, he said he gave his friend a hug.

“I was confused and didn’t know what to think,” Micah said. “At school, everyone was happy to know he was still alive.”

Linda McKinney, Michael’s mother, said she received a call from the school’s principal Monday morning, before Michael left for school, expressing condolences for the family’s loss. He called back later apologizing for the mix-up.

McKinney said she would’ve been “in a panic” had she received the call after her son had left for school.

The hoax left others in the school community rattled.

“I’m just so (upset) that my child and these other kids had to go through this,” said Liz Stevens, whose daughter has a class with Michael. “It’s hard enough to deal with death as an adult.”