Shirley Iverson, 71; her daughter, Debra Buhmann, 35, and her granddaughter Alexis Iverson-Ferkul, all of Lakeville, had been heading home from a trip to Target and were just 3 miles from home.
Marveen Wolf's mother had always been a prankster.
So when the doorbell rang Saturday night at the house that Wolf shared with her mother and her 8-year-old daughter, she thought it was the two of them, playing a joke.
Instead, she opened the door to find the Lakeville police.
"They told me there had been a fatal accident, that everybody had died in the car, and I said, 'Well, what about my daughter?'"
She lost not only her third-grader but also her sister and mother. The three were killed when a 17-year-old driving a large pickup truck without lights crossed the center line and slammed head-on into their smaller car, according to police.
The three were "always" together, said Wolf, 43, who kept shaking her head in disbelief Sunday night. "Three peas in a pod."
Shirley Iverson, 71; her daughter, Debra Buhmann, 35, and her granddaughter Alexis Iverson-Ferkul, all of Lakeville, had been heading home from a trip to Target and were just 3 miles from home. Photos from the accident scene showed the front end of their sedan was completely crushed.
The driver of the pickup -- a 17-year-old from Dundas, Minn. -- was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center, police said Sunday. The condition of the driver was not available Sunday night.
Iverson, Wolf and Iverson-Ferkul lived just blocks from Buhmann and her family in a manufactured housing development called Ardmor Village in Lakeville, where the streets are named after characters from Shakespeare.
Neighbors said Sunday that the family was constantly at one another's homes, on Brutus and Romeo drives.
"Shirley was a very tough lady, a very strong person," said Rose Burlingame, who lives nearby. "She was so involved in her grandchildren's lives. This is just so sad."
Family and friends stopped by Iverson's house Sunday to give condolences, while children threw snowballs in the back yard.
The young girl who died, who went by "Lexi," had three older sisters who had children of their own and she was already a diaper-changing, game-playing aunt. She was a third-grader at Meadowview Elementary in Farmington, where she loved doing art and reading books.
District spokesman Aaron Tinklenberg said Sunday that the school district has activated its "trauma response team," which means counselors will be ready Monday to help students.
Alexis loved being around family, including her grandmother, whose bedroom is filled with banners and teddy bears bearing the sports teams she loved and toys for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Earlier on Saturday, Iverson and Alexis had gone to church to get their photo taken for the church directory. Until about three years ago, Iverson had been photographed with her husband, but after his death, she wanted her granddaughter to be beside her.
Each day, Iverson would get Alexis ready for school and then baby-sit Buhmann's two young daughters.
"You never saw her sitting much," said Carol Iverson, Shirley Iverson's daughter-in-law. "She was always up, teasing one of the kids and playing."
Police say the Chevy Silverado was traveling west on County Road 50 (Kenwood Trail) about 7 p.m. when it crossed over the center line to the eastbound lane, striking the Hyundai Elantra sedan driven by Buhmann. Witnesses reported that the pickup did not have its headlights on.
"For a family to suffer such a tragic loss of their loved ones in a single crash is incomprehensible," Police Chief Thomas Vonhof said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to them as they deal with their loss."
The State Patrol is helping to investigate the crash. Lakeville police said they don't think alcohol or weather were factors.
Staff writer Emily Johns contributed to this report Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168