NORTHFIELD – Barely a mile from their Carleton College campus home, bound for a prestigious Ultimate Frisbee tournament in California, the five teammates were poised to put the rigors of both school and an endless winter behind them, just for a while.
Instead, their families, friends and the Carleton campus were cloaked in mourning Saturday after three of the young men were killed and the other two seriously hurt when their sport-utility vehicle went out of control on a snow-slicked road and was hit broadside by a semitrailer truck just before 3 p.m. Friday.
Killed were James P. Adams, 20, of St. Paul; Paxton M. Harvieux, 21, of Stillwater, and Michael D. Goodgame, 20, of Westport, Conn. All were dead at the scene near the junction of Hwy. 3 and County Road 47.
William Sparks, 20, of Evanston, Ill., who was driving the 1997 Toyota 4Runner, and Conor J. Eckert, 19, of Seattle, were injured. Eckert was flown to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was in satisfactory condition Saturday, said spokeswoman Christine Hill. Sparks was in satisfactory condition after being transferred to the Medical Center from Northfield Hospital.
The truck’s driver, Danny Terry, 56, of Pioneer, Tenn., was uninjured, said Lt. Eric Roeske of the State Patrol.
A wave of shock and grief coursed through Carleton, the kind of small, close-knit campus where many of the 2,000 students are either friends or friends of friends. Hundreds of students and faculty packed Skinner Memorial Chapel for an 11 a.m. service Saturday, overflowing from the pews and leaving many to stand as they shared memories, anecdotes and tears. Afterward, they streamed out into the cold, giving one another support as they braced against sorrow and a harsh wind.
On the edge of campus, where snow sculptures dotted the yards of students’ homes, people were still coming to terms with the loss of three vibrant campus leaders.
“You didn’t have to know them to be affected,” said Isabel Carter, a sophomore. “It’s a small school and a close community, and I have a lot of friends who were friends with them. It’s definitely touched everyone.”
The magnitude of the loss is “kind of hard to comprehend,” Carter said, but eventually Carleton will heal. “Somebody put it this way: The foundations of this community are on love and supporting each other,” she said. “That is the reason it’s so hard to lose them, but that’s also why we’ll get better and be OK.”
Carleton junior Hannah Rothblatt knew the guys. Smiling sadly, she said the magnitude of how much they were loved was in evidence at the morning’s tribute.
Rothblatt said that despite the pain, the campus is equipped to handle what will be a long grieving process. “Hugs,” she said. “Not being alone.”
Carleton President Steven Poskanzer called Saturday “a wrenching, awful day for the Carleton community.”
At Goodbye Blue Monday, a downtown Northfield coffee shop popular among students and locals, a table of the guys’ Ultimate Frisbee teammates bought drinks for the house, a way of paying it forward in honor of their friends. Nearby, as 25-year-old Teddy Gelderman read a news account of the crash, the 2011 Carleton alumnus also sensed the loss.
“Anything like this is tragic, but when it’s a student there’s just so much potential that’s lost,” he said. “I think that’s how everyone feels. These guys were bright and they had a lot ahead of them.”
Acute sense of loss
The five men all were members of the Carleton Ultimate Team, which finished No. 3 in the nation last year and had been ranked No. 9 heading into the weekend’s Stanford Invite tournament at Stanford University. The women’s team also was going to the tournament but canceled those plans.
Harvieux was a “Renaissance kid” from a loving family who played basketball for Carleton and had a warm and affable personality, said Guy Kalland, Carleton’s basketball coach. “He was so fired up about his classes,” Kalland said. “He was curious, he was engaging, he was respectful. I think he epitomized all the values that Carleton holds dear.”
Andy Clark coached Sparks and Goodgame on Carleton’s swimming team but knew all five of them.
“They were all very good friends. I can’t imagine what their families are going through,” he said. “You just don’t expect to lose people at this age. It’s the worst kind of tragedy. It’s hard to comprehend.”
Goodgame spent two years on the swim team, and Sparks was a mainstay for the Knights this season. Clark was at the hospital with Sparks’ family Friday night. “Will [Sparks] is someone you can always count on,” Clark said. “In or out of the pool, he’s someone who gives 100 percent all the time. He has a sense of integrity that’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
On the stretch of Hwy. 3 not far from the Dairy Queen on the edge of Northfield, there was no sign of Friday’s tragedy.
“Last night and this morning, our immediate focus has been on just getting through today,” campus spokesman Eric Sieger said Saturday. The campus will have counseling and chaplaincy services available for students.
“Anyone who’s gone through the experience of losing a young person knows how difficult it is. We’ve lost three. The most important thing for us as a campus is that we come together and support one another.”