Mourners grieve for 2 Lakeville students who died in crash

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 1, 2012 - 9:29 PM

The car's driver, a 17-year-old Lakeville South student, legally could have only one under-20 passenger with him.

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The day after a car full of teens rolled off a frontage road onto a freeway shoulder in Burnsville, friends and family members mourned the deaths of two of the passengers.

One was remembered as an energetic class clown who loved football; the other was a cheerleader who was considering joining the Army.

On Wednesday, visitors had left dozens of flower bouquets, two wooden crosses, a teddy bear and balloons near the spot where the car veered off Buck Hill Road on Tuesday afternoon. The speeding car left half a block of skid marks, went through a security fence and rolled down a grassy embankment onto the shoulder of Interstate 35.

Killed were passengers Frederick J. Alexander, 16, of Burnsville, and Alesha K. Roehl, 17, of rural Northfield, both of whom were thrown from the car. Neither was wearing a seat belt.

The State Patrol said Wednesday that the 17-year-old driver, who sustained minor injuries, had violated a state law limiting how many teenage passengers could ride in his car. Lt. Eric Roeske said the driver had received his license within six months, during which time the law allows only one passenger under age 20.

"In this crash," he said, "what seems like excessive speed and some sort of careless behavior, coupled with a lack of seat belt use, cost two young people their lives."

Roeske said the speed limit on the frontage road is 40 miles per hour. The crash "illustrates how teens really need to take driving seriously," he said, "especially when they have passengers."

The State Patrol is not releasing the driver's name or the names of the other two passengers while the investigation continues.

Alexander's sister, Gabby McClenney, 20, placed three colorful foil balloons at an impromptu memorial by the bent security fence on a hill above I-35 on Wednesday. She said her family and that of another 16-year-old passenger live in Sunny Acres mobile home park, just behind the crash scene.

Her brother was an outgoing boy who was always happy, she said, except when he got braces recently, which meant he couldn't play football in his junior year at Lakeville South High School.

"It is unfortunate that his life was taken so early," McClenney said. "He was just a kid."

Alexander and Roehl went to Lakeville South High School's alternative learning center (ALC), a school district spokeswoman said. The others went to Lakeville South.

"It is a huge crisis in the community," spokeswoman Linda Swanson said.

She said the district had counselors at the learning center Wednesday, listening and talking to the many students who stopped by. A gathering is planned at the center from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, with school psychologists and social workers.

The district will continue to make counselors available when school opens Sept. 4, Swanson said.

'School will never be the same'

As freeway traffic whizzed by the roadside memorial, a dozen or so people stood and sat on the grassy hill in the rain Wednesday afternoon. Quinton Boe, 15, and some friends put up a small wooden cross in the foot-high grass by the security fence. Boe said he tied a red neckerchief belonging to his friend Freddy to the cross. All four boys in the car played football at Lakeville South, Boe said.

Carissa Luzum, 16, said she was a freshman cheerleader with Roehl, who she said loved the rap music of Tupac and dyeing her hair. "She was so honest about everything," Luzum said.

Alexander "was always dancing and singing and running through the halls," Luzum said. "School will never be the same at all. He was friends with everyone."

Cindy Roehl, Alesha's grandmother, said she was told the friends were going Tuesday to swim at a Lakeville lake.

She said Alesha enjoyed being outdoors and loved animals, even nursing a calf back to health after it had been frozen in a pond on the family's rural property. She said Alesha was about to start her senior year and had talked about joining the U.S. Army.

"She was a pretty girl. We were blessed to have her in our life," Roehl said. The family is "really going to miss her."

A reporter who stopped at the home of the driver, a 17-year-old Lakeville boy, was told by his younger brother that he was still at the hospital on Wednesday. Family members did not respond to a reporter's phone message.

The 1992 Toyota Camry lost control while heading south on Buck Hill Road about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. Witnesses said the car appeared to be speeding and swerving back and forth. Skid marks run diagonally across Buck Hill Road, up a curb and down the grassy freeway embankment, north of the County Road 46 exit.

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283

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  • TEENS AND DRIVING

    According to Minnesota law, teenage drivers must restrict how many people are in their cars. The law says:

    For the first six months with a license: Only one passenger younger than 20 is permitted, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

    For the second six months with a license: No more than three passengers younger than 20 are permitted, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

    Passengers under age 20 who are members of the driver's immediate family are permitted.

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