A high school junior trying to meet up with friends had just left one of their houses when she collided with their pickup truck on a gravel road near Hastings, killing her and hospitalizing the others.
The car and truck collided at the crest of a hill on Lewiston Boulevard south of E. 190th Street in Marshan Township about 8 p.m. Thursday, killing Maddy R. Sake, 16, according to the Dakota County Sheriff's Office. The collision occurred "right at the crest of the hill," said Sheriff's Capt. Joe Leko. "There was no time to react for either driver."
The pickup's occupants, two recent Hastings High School graduates and a Hastings senior, were injured but "are eventually going to be fine," said Hastings Schools Superintendent Tim Collins.
In the pickup were driver Blake A. Beissel, 18, and passengers Derek V. Niebur, 18, and Mariah K. Nelson, 17, the Sheriff's Office said. Beissel and Niebur graduated from Hastings in 2012; Nelson is a senior.
Sake, who also went to Hastings High, had driven down to Beissel's home to hang out with her friends, but they were not there, Leko said. She was heading north back to Hastings on Lewiston when she and Beissel crashed head-on, he said.
It was another bitter tragedy in a span of six weeks that also saw three Wisconsin teens die after they plowed into a semitrailer truck on Interstate 94 near Hudson, Wis., and two teens killed in a rollover near Interstate 35W in Burnsville.
Collins described Maddy Sake as "very fun-loving and always involved in activities." Friends gathered Friday afternoon at a roadside memorial near the crash site, and a moment of silence was planned for the Hastings home football game Friday night against Woodbury.
Abby Sake, Maddy's twin, also attends Hastings, Collins said. A woman who answered the door Friday at the Sakes' house in Denmark Township, north of Hastings, said the family did not wish to speak with reporters.
Blake Beissel's brother, Kyle, 20, said a neighbor who had been walking a dog along the road near the crest of the hill told him Sake pulled to the center of the road to avoid dog and walker just before the accident. "It's a tough spot," he said of the accident site.
Kyle Beissel said Sake had become the girlfriend of a friend of his and thus part of the larger group of friends, who occasionally had bonfire gatherings in one another's yards.
Blake Beissel was undergoing surgery Friday evening and apparently suffered at least a broken leg, his brother said.
School officials were trying to keep everything as normal as possible "so that kids can share the pain and the memories," Collins said. Joining the high school counselors were middle school counselors and youth pastors and ministers, the superintendent said.
No criminal charges have been filed in connection with the accident; the State Patrol is reconstructing the crash. There is no indication that drugs or alcohol were involved, Leko said. He added that there was no initial evidence of distracted driving, but that had yet to be ruled out.
A string of sorrows
On July 30, a crash on I-94 near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border killed New Richmond (Wis.) High School students Zachary Zajec, 17, Joshua Goodrich, 17, and Jordan Johnson, 16. Their SUV crashed into the back of a semitrailer truck stopped in heavy traffic. The teens were returning home from shopping in Woodbury when the driver apparently took his eyes off the road while trying to get the attention of a girl in another car, officials said.
On Aug. 28, a car carrying five Lakeville South High School students rolled over after swerving off a frontage road near 35W in Burnsville, killing passengers Frederick Alexander, 16, of Burnsville, and Alesha Roehl, 17, of rural Northfield.
Teen driving deaths in Minnesota are rarer than in some recent years. Last year, 39 teens died in crashes, and 30 deaths have occurred so far this year, said the Department of Public Safety. In 2010 the teen fatality total was 47, and it was 75 as recently as 2006.