VERSAILLES, Ind. (AP) – A small Indiana community hit hard by tragedy in recent years was reeling Thursday after three teenagers who had left a school function were killed when their pickup trucks collided at a rural intersection.
The two-vehicle crash involved six students from South Ripley High School in the town of Versailles, about 45 miles west of Cincinnati. The students had the day off school to attend a Future Farmers of America event at a rural church, but they left the daylong event around 9:30 a.m. after serving breakfast to local agriculture officials, Superintendent Rob Moorhead said.
Three of the teenagers _ 18-year-old Samantha Hanson, 17-year-old Timothy Bowman and 18-year-old Jacob Vogel _ died at the scene, and the others were taken to local hospitals, Indiana State Police Sgt. Noel Houze said. Their conditions were not released.
Police believe both drivers ran a four-way stop and their trucks collided at a right angle, with the larger dual-wheel Dodge truck hitting the smaller Ford F-250 broadside. Authorities said Bowman was driving the Ford, with Vogel as his passenger, while Hanson was a passenger in the Dodge truck.
The fatal crash was the latest in a string of recent tragedies in Versailles, a town of only about of 2,000 people. In the last year and a half, an 18-year-old woman died after crashing her car while texting, a 15-year-old girl was killed while riding an all-terrain vehicle and a popular teacher died in a plane crash. A 71-year-old man who was injured when a tornado hit the area last year recently died from injuries he sustained in the storm.
“There has just been so much tragedy here,” said Lori McNeelan, of nearby Holton, who was among dozens of people packing a restaurant Thursday night where Hanson had worked for an impromptu vigil.
Moorhead said officials at the high school, which has about 370 students, called students into the gym to tell them about the crash. Teachers also were briefed.
“It’s completely devastating to the people at the school,” Moorhead said.
Residents said they would pull together for the families of Bowman, of Osgood, Vogel, of Versailles, and Hanson, who lived in Holton, as well as for those injured.
At the vigil for Hanson, a makeshift memorial featuring a photograph of her surrounded by about 100 small candles sat on a counter at one end of the packed restaurant.
Dozens of teenagers and parents, many crying, embraced as they listened to prayers for the victims.
Kayla Little, 17, said Hanson “always had a smile on her face.”
“There was never a day that went by that you couldn’t just go up to her and talk to her about anything,” she said, choking up.
Shannon Goddard, whose 15-year-old daughter, Cierra, knew Hanson, said the magnitude of the tragedy was still sinking in.
“It is shocking enough when you hear that one student has died, but when you find out it’s multiple deaths, it’s just devastating,” she said.
Associated Press writer Charles Wilson in Indianapolis contributed to this story.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)