MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Authorities say two teenagers died Saturday morning in a two-vehicle crash north of the Twin Cities metro.
The Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office responded to the two-vehicle crash at the intersection of 195th Ave. and Rainbow Street in Comfort Township, near Mora. When authorities arrived, a juvenile male passenger in one of the vehicles was pronounced dead at the scene.
Authorities say an adult female driver of that vehicle was taken to North Memorial Hospital, where she later died.
Officials with Braham Area Schools say the two crash victims are high school students.
Junior Gavin Butenhoff and senior Alexis Hasser were killed in the crash. Braham High School will be open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for students, staff and the community as a gathering place. Licensed counselors and clergy will be on site to help those grieving.
Authorities say two adults were in the other vehicle in the crash, and they were taken to North Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. What led up to the crash is under investigation.
The Kanabec County Sheriff’s Office was assisted at the scene by FirstLight Ambulance, the Mora Fire Department, Pine County Ambulance, North Air Car and Kanabec 1st Responders.
A seemingly unknown intersection in Kanabec County now carries with it a tragic story of two young lives lost.
“When I woke up that morning, I just felt something wrong, felt like really empty and felt like something, my other half was missing,” said Grace Butenhoff while fighting through tears. The 16-year-old was talking about her twin brother Gavin, who was riding in a car with his girlfriend Alexis.
The pair crashed into another car Saturday and didn’t survive.
Butenhoff says Gavin recently overcame a drug addiction and was healthy again.
She said the toughest part was, “Just like knowing that I’m not gonna grow up with him anymore. And our birthday is coming up on [March] 20. So he’s not gonna be there for our 17th birthday.”
Grace and dozens of classmates, parents and staff grieved together at the high school Sunday.
“It’s heavy, it hits everyone when you’re in a small school like this,” said Amelia Fiedler.
Amelia Fiedler was best friends with Alexis, who she described as witty with a memorable laugh.
The senior played basketball and volleyball and had been part of the school district since she was in kindergarten.
“It’s hard to think positively because it feels like it all came crashing down so fast,” Fiedler added.
The news weighed heavily on Superintendent Ken Gagner.
“I’ll be honest I broke down,” he said of when he learned about the crash.
A father himself, he sympathizes with the teenagers’ parents. But his focus remains his students.
“We’re trying to lead this community and help and you just emotionally have to stay strong,” Gagner said. “And we know it’s only beginning. That’s the tough part of this.”
Being such a small district, Braham Area High school only has a part-time counselor and one full-time social worker. But Gagner said neighboring districts have offered their counselors to help, meaning at least five will be at the high school Monday to help students and staff.