Throughout the school day Monday, two deans at Lakeville South High School walked from class to class, following the schedules of Johnny Price and Jake Flynn. On the boys’ desks, they left a single rose, Principal John Braun said.
Staff members, administrators and students mourned Price, 18, and Flynn, 17, who were killed Friday afternoon in a pickup truck rollover crash just outside Lakeville city limits. Two other teens were injured.
Counselors were available in the auditorium, and students gathered there to talk to them and to one another, and to grieve together.
“Our students and staff are doing about as well as you can expect under the circumstances,” Lakeville Superintendent Lisa Snyder said at a news conference at the school.
The district will provide transportation for students to the funerals on Tuesday and Thursday. School buses have been outfitted with #LakevilleStrong signs.
The driver of the pickup, Alex Hughes, 17, remained at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis on Monday. Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said investigators want to talk to him but haven’t been able to because he is not able to communicate.
Passenger Mason Kohlbeck, 18, was found dazed and wandering near the crash site on 225th Street west of Dodd Boulevard. He was back at Lakeville South on Monday, Braun said.
“He felt it was extremely important for him to be here to help our other students,” the principal said. “I think the students were relieved” to see him. “There were a lot of embraces, a lot of tears.”
The four students had left school for the day, Leslie said. When the pickup began to veer off the road, the driver overcorrected and the truck rolled.
Speculation and rumors were rampant over the weekend that the students might have been playing Nerf Wars, a game that involves Nerf guns that fire foam bullets.
Lakeville Police Chief Jeff Long likened the game Monday to a teen version of “Capture the Flag.” He said at the news conference that his department hasn’t received any complaints about anyone playing the game while driving. About two years ago, the chief said, there was a reported kidnapping from a gas station that turned out to be just part of the game.
Leslie said Monday that he didn’t know whether Nerf guns were found in the pickup. Investigators planned to examine the pickup’s contents and pull its “black box,” he said.
But Leslie said he wasn’t going to comment further about the investigation until after the funerals. He said the pickup was the only vehicle in the accident.
Snyder said school officials have never found a Nerf gun in school. The game “is not something that happens in our schools,” she said.
Soda Simphilavong, 18, a senior, carried a yellow rose to his car Monday in memory of Price.
“Johnny was my best friend,” he said. “He was probably the funniest guy I knew. I grew up with him.”
He said he has never heard of Nerf Wars or anyone at Lakeville South playing it.
At least some had, though. A Twitter account, @southsidenerf, calling itself the “official Twitter page of the Lakeville South Nerf War,” included videos of teenagers being eliminated from the game and lists of players who remained. The account was no longer accessible Monday.