A second multiple-victim crash within a week has killed three teens and a 20-year-old — bringing to seven the number of young men killed in similar broadside collisions on icy Minnesota highways.
The latest victims died Friday night after the car they were in slid out of control outside Sleepy Eye, 105 miles southwest of Minneapolis in south-central Minnesota, the State Patrol said. Four others were injured, none critically, when the car and a pickup truck collided shortly before 8:30 p.m. on two-lane Hwy. 14 in Brown County.
Killed were John D. Mangen, 18, of Fairfax; Caleb B. Quesenberry, 17, of St. Peter; Payton R. Adams, 17, of Sleepy Eye; and Tyler S. Hadley, 20, of Sleepy Eye. All were passengers in the car.
“It’s a big shock for our community here,” said John Cselovszki, superintendent of Sleepy Eye public schools.
The deadly crash came exactly one week after three Carleton College students died near Northfield when their SUV went out of control on the ice and slid into the path of a semitrailer truck.
Friday, a 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix driven by Kansas Adams, 19, was going west on Hwy. 14 when he lost control on an icy curve. The car slid into the eastbound lane and was hit broadside on the passenger side by a 1999 Dodge Ram pickup, the patrol said.
Kansas Adams suffered serious injuries and remained hospitalized Saturday. He was the only one in the car known to be wearing a seat belt, State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said, adding that Kansas was Payton Adams’ brother.
It wasn’t known if the car’s front-seat passenger was wearing a seat belt, but none of those in the back seat were, Roeske said.
The driver of the truck, Douglas Wiborg, 43, of New Ulm and his children — Jakob Wiborg, 9, and Syndey Wiborg, 7 — were hospitalized with noncritical injuries. They were wearing seat belts, Roeske said.
A small amount of marijuana was located in the Grand Prix, but it’s unknown if that or alcohol played a role in the crash, he said. He noted that Wiborg had not been drinking.
Last weekend’s crash in Northfield killed three Carleton College students — James P. Adams, 20, of St. Paul; Paxton M. Harvieux, 21, of Stillwater; and Michael D. Goodgame, 20, of Westport, Conn. — and injured two others.
‘A horrific tragedy’
“As this case and the case last week illustrates, at the wrong time, depending on what is coming in the other direction, [losing control on a road] can be a horrific tragedy,” said Roeske, adding that officers continue to emphasize to drivers to adjust driving to conditions. “You can’t take it lightly when we talk about the need to be aware and drive safely in these conditions.”
For many in Sleepy Eye, a city of about 3,600, the first inkling of something wrong came when they heard the sound of helicopters during a school play Friday, Cselovszki said.
Hadley graduated in 2012 and Mangen in 2013 from Sleepy Eye High School. Cselovszki said he saw both Thursday night in Mankato at the high school girls’ basketball playoff game against Lester Prairie.
“They were outstanding members of our community and participated in various events,” the superintendent said. “We enjoyed having them, and it’s really a tragic loss for our school and our community.”
Payton Adams attended St. Mary’s Catholic School in Sleepy Eye, where his brother, Kansas Adams, had graduated. Quesenberry attended school in a neighboring district.
His brother, Alex, said Caleb Quesenberry was always outgoing and kind.
Word of the crash spread quickly on social media to friends, including Ethan Silfies, who had graduated with Mangen and played on the baseball and football teams with him.
“I was completely speechless,” Silfies said. “It’s not just Sleepy Eye; it’s the whole 507 area code — from Redwood Falls to Marshall to Mankato. Everybody, even if they didn’t know them, is still affected.”
He added that everyone in the car had been involved in athletics and was well-known locally. Mangen was attending college in Winona and “always managed to have a smile on his face,” Silfies said.
Driver recalls hitting ice patch
Isaiah Arbogast, a St. Cloud State University classmate, visited Kansas Adams at North Memorial Medical Center in Minneapolis and said his friend was improving Saturday.
“He remembers hitting that icy patch and … the rest is a blur,” Arbogast said.
He said Kansas Adams told him that the marijuana was not his, and that neither pot nor alcohol played a role in causing the crash — just slippery roads.
As for the driver’s younger brother, Payton Adams, Arbogast said he was an outgoing junior at St. Mary’s Catholic School, where he played basketball and football. “He was just a good kid,” Arbogast said.
The patrol said that the collision occurred just west of Sleepy Eye, where the highway has two sets of S curves.
“Highway 14 is in bad shape right now — very slick,” Sleepy Eye Mayor James Broich said Saturday. “We had blowing snow [Friday], and then with the sun out, it melted and froze on the highway.”
Several other injury accidents were reported on icy highways in south-central Minnesota overnight. They included two rollovers, one each in Blue Earth and Jackson counties, that injured 10 children, teens and young adults. None were critically hurt.
Cselovszki said Monday had been scheduled as in-service day for teachers, with students off in Sleepy Eye public school. Due to the tragedy, the school will be open from 10 a.m. to noon for young people who want to gather.
Counselors and clergy will be available then and when classes resume, and teachers also will be offered grief counseling, he said.
Cselovszki, his voice breaking, said he and many others had not slept Friday night. As the news spread, he said, many were hoping that it wasn’t true.
“It’s difficult for the whole town,” Cselovszki said. “It’s a tough place to be — in Sleepy Eye.”