At NDSU, sadness at loss of 4 studentsFARGO, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State University students exchanged photographs and stories on Tuesday to mourn the loss of four fellow students killed in a traffic accident while traveling back to school from the Minneapolis area.
By: DAVE KOLPACK, Associated Press
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State University students exchanged photographs and stories on Tuesday to mourn the loss of four fellow students killed in a traffic accident while traveling back to school from the Minneapolis area.
Prakash Matthew, the school's vice president for student affairs, said counselors were on alert to help students and others cope with the loss of the women, all first-year students at NDSU.
"I've never faced a tragedy of this magnitude since I have been at NDSU," said Matthew, who has been part of the college for 35 years.
Asked about the atmosphere at the school, Matthew said, "So somber."
The women were identified as Lauren Peterson of Prior Lake, Megan Sample of Rogers, Danielle Renninger of Excelsior, all 18, and 19-year-old Jordan Playle of Elk River.
The Minnesota State Patrol said the car driven by Peterson crossed the median of Interstate 94 near Alexandria Monday afternoon and was struck by an SUV, which was hit by a third vehicle. Heavy snow, fog, strong winds and temperatures near freezing made travel difficult in the region.
As word of the accident reached campus Monday night, Matthew said students gathered at Severson Hall, where Playle, Renninger and Sample shared a two-room suite. Peterson lived in North Weible Hall.
"They have been expressing their sadness and their connection with these young women in different ways," Matthew said. "Some of them left some pictures, some of them left some words."
Michael Renninger, Danielle's father, said in a phone interview Tuesday that his daughter spent the weekend studying and spending time with family.
"We had the most amazing weekend. She was so thankful for life," Renninger said, fighting back tears. "She was making comments about how wonderful her life is. It was just so strange, thinking of it now."
The flag at Fargo's City Hall was lowered to half-staff on Tuesday.
"Our sympathy goes to the families and friends of these young students. To have four lives taken from their families is hard to comprehend," Mayor Dennis Walaker said in a statement.
Darcie Ellertson, Sevrinson Hall director, described the emotions Tuesday as "shock and disbelief." Many students were still processing what happened, she said.
"They were very vibrant women, all three of them," Ellertson said. "They really were a presence in our hall. They were very well-liked and they will very much be missed."
School officials said counselors were paying particular attention to the surviving suitemate.
"Last night naturally was a shock for her," Matthew said. "She definitely needed some help and also some time by herself."
School officials said Daniele Renninger and Playle were both studying marketing. Sample was in the apparel, retail merchandising and design program.
Michael Renninger said his daughter decided to attend NDSU primarily because of the school's business program and four-hour drive to home.
"She wanted to be able to commute back and forth and be close to family and friends," he said.