ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) — The St. Cloud Cathedral school community is dealing with a terrible loss after one of its students was killed in a single-vehicle crash.
Ellie Sovada, 13, was returning home from a track meet in Little Falls when the Chevrolet Suburban driven by her teammate’s father veered off the road and struck a tree.
Sovada was riding in the right rear passenger seat when the SUV ran off the road, hit a crossroad embankment and slammed into the tree near the intersection of U.S. Highway 10 and 85th Street NW in Benton County.
“It looked bad right away,” said Willie Holthaus, who lives near the crash site.
Holthaus was outside Monday evening when tragedy came to rest in his front yard.
“I saw the initial impact, turned around and watched it hit a tree. It happened literally in less than two seconds,” he said.
Holthaus quickly ran up to the vehicle with blankets and a towel. Sitting inside on the rear passenger seat were the two Cathedral Middle School seventh-graders returning from a track meet.
Sovada was killed and her teammate and close friend, Sophia Boyle, was badly injured.
Boyle’s father, 59-year-old Phillip Boyle, is a St. Cloud physician and was driving the girls home from the meet.
“(Boyle) kept saying her name, I think it was Ellie and then, ‘I fell asleep, I fell asleep, I fell asleep’ — that’s what he kept saying,” Holthaus said.
Sovada was a promising young athlete at Cathedral. Besides competing in track and field, friends say she was an exceptional Nordic skier.
At the Cathedral campus Tuesday, staff and students mourned her loss and prayed for both families.
“Everyone is going to miss her so much and a lot of people have been crying today for her, it’s so sad,” one student said.
Cathedral’s President, Mike Mullin, called Ellie an “absolutely outstanding and delightful young girl, a straight-A student.”
Her loss is one felt by all in this close-knit school community.
Witnesses at the scene say they did all they could to give aid until first responders arrived. All three passengers were wearing seatbelts and front and side curtain airbags deployed on impact.