A “Nerf Wars” game is being scrutinized as a possible factor in a pickup truck rollover in Lakeville that left two teenagers dead, the Dakota County sheriff said Sunday.
Lakeville South High School students Johnny Price, 18, and Jake Flynn, 17, were killed in the crash midafternoon Friday at 225th Street west of Dodd Boulevard.
The truck’s driver, Alexander Hughes, 17, was in critical condition Sunday at Hennepin County Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said. Another passenger, Mason Kohlbeck, 18, was found wandering dazed nearby. He was hospitalized and has been released.
Hughes and Kohlbeck, both seniors, were fellow defensive linemen as varsity football teammates. Head coach Larry Thompson said Hughes suffered a fractured skull and broken cheekbone.
“We’ve heard of these Nerf Wars,” said Sheriff Tim Leslie, referring to a weekend’s worth of speculation that this competition was going on inside the pickup and had something to do with the vehicle veering off the road to the right and hitting the gravel before Hughes overcorrected and sent the truck into what Leslie called “a barrel roll.”
Leslie said his understanding is that Nerf Wars involves toy guns that fire foam bullets, and the taking of “captives.”
The game has “two pages of rules, there’s money and a competition with a winner,” the sheriff added.
Leslie said investigators are anxious to speak with Hughes once he is well enough to be interviewed. “That would shed some light on exactly what happened.”
On Monday, law enforcement’s attention will turn to the pickup truck. Authorities will search the vehicle and review the data in its computer system.
The search could turn up evidence of whether Nerf Wars was being played at the time, Leslie said, adding that “there are allegations that there are Nerf guns in the car. I don’t know that.”
The truck’s computer “brain” will tell investigators “how fast, when the brakes were touched” and other details about the pickup’s movements leading up to and during the crash, Leslie said.
“The truck is just destroyed,” the sheriff said. “It really, really took a tumble.”
Of the four, authorities are most confident of seat belt use by Kohlbeck, given that he was “the one walking and talking [after the rollover]. That’s the assumption.”
Price and Flynn were thrown clear of the pickup as it rolled, but Leslie said he could not rule out that they had on their seat belts, given the exceptional force from the crash and “the violence in that roll.”
Lakeville South teacher Jarrett Sommers said he had Price and Flynn as students in separate honors chemistry classes last year. He remembered Price, a senior who lettered in baseball, for his ability to command the class with his personality and sense of humor.
Sommers said Flynn “was good at everything and made it seem effortless.” Flynn, a junior, was a running back on the football team. Flynn also was a nephew of Vince Flynn, the bestselling Twin Cities novelist who died in 2013 from cancer.
Flynn is survived by his parents, Kevin and Michelle, and siblings Jordan, Jolie and Jace. Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at All Saints Catholic Church, 19795 Holyoke Av., Lakeville, with visitation one hour before. Visitation also is scheduled for 4-8 p.m. Wednesday at White Funeral Home, 20134 Kenwood Trail, Lakeville.
Price is survived by his parents, John and Lisa, and a brother, Tommy. Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church, 3450 Irving Av. S., Minneapolis. Visitation is scheduled for 4-8 p.m. Monday at White Funeral Home.
“I can’t keep it out of my head that these families will wake up with this cloud in their lives,” Leslie said.