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Three teens die in single-car crash early Sunday near Ballwin

Three teens die in single-car crash early Sunday near Ballwin

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BALLWIN — Throngs of teenagers gathered throughout the day and night Sunday around the tree and charred ground where three of their friends died in a fiery car crash early that morning. Many cried and tried to process the tragedy.

They placed three small wooden crosses at the tree’s base and covered it with flowers, notes, balloons and teddy bears. The teens hugged and cried as they shivered in the cold.

Kyle Wright, a sophomore at St. Louis University High School, said he came to honor those who died “but also just to recognize how fragile life can be, and anything can happen with a snap of a finger.”

Police have not publicly identified those involved in the single-car crash. Two other teens in the car were seriously injured.

Those gathering at the scene and school officials said those killed included two students from Marquette High School in Chesterfield and one from De Smet Jesuit High School in Creve Coeur. The two injured students also attended Marquette, according to the Rockwood School District.

De Smet officials identified their student as Cole Anello.

“We offer prayers for Cole, the other victims of this terrible tragedy, their families, and friends. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Marquette High School community,” reads a statement from the Catholic boys’ school. “Our counselors, faculty, and staff, are already supporting and caring for students and will continue to provide whatever they need in the days and weeks ahead.”

County police officers are investigating and reconstructing the accident, which occurred near Kiefer Creek Road and Forest Valley Drive near Ballwin around 4 a.m.

Kiefer Creek Road is a windy road with yellow traffic signs warning of crossing deer.

When officers responded to the call about a car crash, they found the vehicle fully engulfed in flames, police said.

A preliminary investigation determined that the teens were in a Nissan Maxima traveling eastbound on Kiefer Creek Road when the car left the road and struck a tree. The vehicle then caught fire.

Three were pronounced dead at the scene. Two others were taken to area hospitals with “life-threatening injuries,” police said.

“The scariest part,” said Wright, “is the fact that it could be anybody, honestly.”

Rockwood officials released a statement Sunday saying that a crisis team and counselors will be available this week to assist students and staff.

“The Rockwood School District is shocked and saddened to learn about the tragic accident that resulted in the loss of two of our students and severe injuries to two more of our students from Marquette High School,” the statement read. “Our sincere thoughts and sympathies are with the families, educators and friends who knew and loved these young people.”

Friends who are sophomores at Eureka and Lafayette high schools in Rockwood gathered at the crash site in tears and disbelief.

Girls who knew Cole and another boy who died from Marquette said the two made everyone smile and were among the nicest people they knew.

“I didn’t think it was real. I thought it was just dumb kids making up a rumor,” said Sammie Williams, from Eureka High. Her friend, Sierra Sachtleben, from Lafayette, added, “My heart just dropped when I heard their names.”

The girls said their worried parents checked on them in their rooms or texted them at their friends’ houses as soon as they learned of the crash to make sure they were OK.

Jen Warren, 45, huddled with her two daughters who attend Marquette High, after placing flowers, a balloon and stuffed bear.

“It could’ve been any one of our kids,” Warren said. “It’s so incredibly tragic.”

Warren said she immediately ran upstairs to make sure her daughters and their friends were asleep in their rooms when she heard about the fatal crash. She also texted their parents right away to let them know they were safe.

“No parents think their kid is out at 4 a.m.,” Warren said.

Victoria McNamee, 62, of Ellisville, said her grandson attends De Smet but lives several miles away in Florissant, so she came to pay her respects.

When McNamee saw the wind blowing bouquets out into the road, she returned home and came back with twine, which she and others wrapped around the tree to hold the flowers and other mementos in place.

Her grandson will soon be driving back and forth from Florissant to De Smet, she said, which makes her and his mom nervous. They do their best to keep tabs on his whereabouts.

“You can’t keep them in a bubble,” she said.


An earlier version of the story posted Sunday morning:

BALLWIN — Three teens died and two others were seriously injured in a fiery crash just after 4 a.m. Sunday near Ballwin, according to the St. Louis County Police Department.

Their identities have not been released. “All victims appear to be in their mid- to late teens,” police said.

County police officers are investigating and reconstructing the accident, which occurred near Kiefer Creek Road and Forest Valley Drive at around 4:09 a.m.

Officers responded to a call about a car crash and found the vehicle fully engulfed in flames.

A preliminary investigation has determined that the Nissan Maxima was traveling eastbound on Kiefer Creek Road when it left the road and stuck a tree. The vehicle then caught fire.

Police say five individuals appear to have been in the car at the time of the crash. Three were pronounced dead at the scene. Two others were taken to area hospitals with life-threatening injuries.

Authorities will release additional information as it becomes available.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact St. Louis County police at 636-529-8210.

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