A talented Burnsville teen athlete died and three other teenagers were injured Wednesday night in a rollover one-vehicle crash in Dakota County, according to media reports.
The four were on their way back from cliff diving near Cannon Falls, Burnsville High School Principal Dave Helke told reporters. A passenger, Ty G. Alyea, 17, a popular student who was entering his senior year, was killed.
"I just prayed for him. Prayed for the family. Prayed for the kids," Helke told KARE 11.
The SUV went out of control and rolled at about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday on Highway 52 south of Rosemount, the State Patrol reports. The crash was near the highway intersection with 180th Street in Vermillion Township.
The northbound 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled, went into a median and and came to a rest in southbound Highway 52 lanes, the State Patrol reports.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation; a crash reconstruction team was busy at the scene last night, the State Patrol said.
“We did not detect alcohol on the driver, we don’t believe alcohol is a factor,” State Patrol spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske said.
Alyea was not wearing a seat belt. An unbelted 18-year-old passenger, Cole A. Borchardt, a standout hockey player who just graduated from Burnsville High, was in critical condition Thursday, the Star Tribune reports.
The 17-year-old driver, Matthew Berger, was critically injured. Passenger Tylan A. Procko, 17, was in fair condition. Berger and Procko were wearing seat belts.
Alyea was a baseball player on the Burnsville High School team, who was being recruited by several colleges heading into his last year of high school, his coach said, the Star Tribune reports.
On the school website, Principal Helke said students were encouraged to gather Thursday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on the school's practice fields, where school staff would offer support. And he said administrators and support staff would be available Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the school in rooms A150/A151.
Helke's letter to familes, in part:
Students may want to talk with parents and other trusted adults outside school about the death of a classmate. At this time, it is important to remember that it is normal for individuals to have different reactions to a classmate’s death. Students may wait a while before wanting to talk or may need to be asked about the situation before talking. Some students may not need to discuss the situation at all.
It is always difficult to understand a loss like this and it is an especially important time to reach out for support. Again, please connect with me or the school office to access support resources for yourself or for a student.
Please join me in offering support and condolences to the family and friends and of the students.
Lt. Roeske said the accident serves as a reminder that the most important thing drivers and passengers can do to protect themselves in a crash is wear seat belts.
Roeske at a news conference on Thursday called the crash heartbreaking "because we have a young life lost and three others that will forever be affected by this."
Late last year, Dakota County was the scene of another crash that took the life of a teen driver, 16-year-old Lakeville North High School junior Alyssa Ettl. She had been on her way to school in December when her vehicle spun on a snowy, slushy road and an oncoming SUV broadsided it.
Teen drivers aged 16 to 19 are over-represented in traffic crashes, state officials report. Teens were in 36 crashes that caused 38 deaths in 2013.
The number of fatalities in crashes that involved teen drivers had dropped dramatically five years after the state put new restrictions on teen drivers, the Star Tribune reported last year.
Minnesota's Department of Public Safety's Toward Zero Deaths program, which aims to reduce traffic fatalities each year, notes that there have been 189 fatalities this year, compared to 207 last year at this time. There were 387 traffic fatalities last year and the state has a goal of reducing that to just 350 this year.