CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WCCO) – There is unspeakable sadness Sunday night in Chippewa Falls, Wis.
The community is gathering to remember four lives taken suddenly in a hit-and-run crash. Three young Girl Scouts and a mom were killed Saturday while cleaning garbage out of a ditch in Lake Hallie.
Police say a 21-year-old driver of a pick-up truck left the road and hit the troop. He took off — later turning himself in.
A fourth girl is battling critical injuries in the hospital.
Girl scouts sing their songs in times of joy, and times of sadness. Sunday night, in the rain with candles in hand, was the latter.
“It’s just devastating. It hits me especially hard since I have two children of my own,” Chippewa Falls resident Jill Schafer said.
Jill Schafer was one of hundreds who gathered for a vigil outside Halmstad Elementary School in Chippewa falls to pray for three girl scouts and a mother, killed while serving their community.
“I have one son here that’s in scouts and he’s wearing his scout uniform to help represent the scouting community,” Schafer said.
Investigators say the girl scouts, mostly fourth graders and parent volunteers, were cleaning trash along a county road when a driver veered into the ditch, hitting several of them before driving off. Two girls and a parent died at the scene.
A third girl died at the hospital. Investigators say a fourth remains hospitalized in critical condition.
“I was in tears this morning, I will be weeping often this morning, I know that,” Pastor Jim Woldhuis said.
Pastor Jim Woldhuis says the mother and daughter who died attended Chippewa Valley Bible Church, where he presides.
“Just a fun-loving girl, girl scout. Just your typical little fourth grade girl skipping through life,” Pastor Woldhuis said.
And her mother…
“She had faith, she had purpose and invested herself in her children,” Woldhuis said.
At both schools Sunday, counselors were on hand to console students, staff and parents. A priority for the district’s superintendent.
“Our people care about our children and are wrapping up our children. There are a lot of people hurting on behalf of our children right now,” Chippewa Falls Superintendent Dr. Heidi Eliopolous said.
Pain right now that appears far from disappearing.
Monday morning, counselors, psychologists, therapy dogs and faith leaders will again be at the two elementary schools where the victims were students. The Lake Hallie Police department, which is leading the investigation, will also release the victims’ names.
The driver has been identified as 21-year-old Colten Treu. He has yet to be charged.
Police say this is an ongoing investigation.