W. Minn. star athlete flees bust of underage drinking party, dies

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH and CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2014 - 5:52 AM

Football player went missing after fleeing a party in western Minnesota last weekend. Officials aren’t yet saying how he died.

Just before advanced algebra on Friday, the teacher had an extra minute and asked the senior about his future.

Michael Anyasike grinned and told Cory Larson, his football coach and math teacher, he was leaning toward St. John’s University. He hoped to continue a stellar football career a few hours from their Dawson-Boyd High School in southwestern Minnesota school.

“He was excited and had that smile he always had,” Larson said. “And I was excited to watch him grow the next four years as a young man.”

Instead, the coach will now attend the 18-year-old’s funeral.

Anyasike was among some teenagers seen running from a party near a vacant farmhouse northeast of Madison, Minn., early Sunday morning when a Lac qui Parle County deputy responded to a call about possible underage drinking.

When Anyasike didn’t return home that night, his family called authorities, who began searching at noon on Sunday nearly 12 hours later. He was found about a mile northwest of the party at a different farm and taken by ambulance to the Madison Hospital, where the promising running back from Dawson was pronounced dead.

Authorities aren’t yet saying how he died.

“Everything is pure speculation at this point — nobody knows,” Larson said. “It’s a sad loss of a great classmate, a great teammate, a great friend and a kid that this community is going to miss deeply.”

The son of a doctor who practices family medicine in Marshall, Anyasike never posed any discipline problems, according to his coach.

“Absolutely not; Michael never had issues with that,” Larson said. “He was as coachable and teachable a kid as you get. It’s sad he’s not with us anymore.”

The school district of 525 students is scheduling a memorial service.

“It will be very big, a very big event,” Superintendent Brad Madsen said. “He was very well known and very well liked. You saw him everywhere. He always had a smile on his face and to adults was very respectful.”

Sheriff Rick Halvorson said there have been no arrests “as of yet.” The county coroner, Dr. Ralph Gerbig, said, “We’re continuing to investigate.”

If underage drinking winds up a factor in Anyasike’s death, the sheriff said: “It’s a frustrating fact of growing up.”

‘Whole lot of questions’

Superintendent Madsen said “everybody has a whole lot of questions about what happened. Nobody has answers right now.”

A photo memorial on a hallway wall in the high school attracted students all morning, many signing their names and expressing their sorrow. Counselors from other communities have joined those on staff along with members of ministry to tend to students’ needs.

The Dawson-Boyd football team made it to the Prep Bowl last fall for a third consecutive time, losing to Class 1A champion Mahnomen to round out a 12-2 season. Anyasike struggled through hamstring injuries and turf toe much of his senior year, when he served as one of the captains. As a junior, he rushed for 1,260 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also ran track and was a fixture in the weight room.

Anyasike and his fellow Blackjacks won the state title in 2011 and were second in 2012.

Anyasike’s three younger siblings, two brothers and a sister, attend school in the same district. A prayer service for Anyasike was being arranged at Grace Lutheran Church in Dawson. Monday, the church said that “due to the tragic death in our community yesterday, our sanctuary is open for personal remembrance and prayer throughout the day today. Any and all are welcome.”

Social host ordinance

Authorities haven’t said where the underage drinkers at the party obtained alcohol, but the county has a social host law, which holds criminally responsible any adult who allows a group of people under 21 to drink alcohol on public or private property. The deputy said 20 vehicles were parked at the farmhouse Saturday night.

The farmhouse is owned by Gary Hastad, who lives up the street. His brother, Keith, the farmhouse’s previous owner, died in a grain bin accident at the farm in 2010. The farmhouse is now vacant, and calls to Gary Hastad were not returned.

 

paul.walsh@startribune.com • 612-673-4482

curt.brown@startribune.com • 612-673-476

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