Four Indiana teens die in crash after spring break

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) – Five people were killed, including four Indiana high school seniors returning from spring break, when a minivan plowed head on into the students’ car on a rain-soaked highway in Alabama, authorities said on Sunday.

Stunned residents of Angola, Indiana, gathered for prayer services Sunday night at two churches in town, while others began to build a memorial shrine of pictures, flowers and notes near the entrance to the high school of about 900 students.

“We are pretty much a small-town rural area … It impacts everyone in the school community,” Angola High School Principal Steve Grill told Reuters on Sunday. “They were really good students and exceptionally good individuals and good leaders in our school and good citizens.

“Their loss leaves a big hole in our school community,” Grill said, adding that school officials, school crisis counselors and local police met for several hours to prepare to console students and teachers returning to classes on Monday.

The four students killed in Saturday’s crash were identified as Alexx Bauer, Riley Zimmer, Matt Rowe and Evan Weaver. The fifth victim was identified as Niall McNellis of Troy, Alabama.

McNellis, 21, was driving a minivan south on Interstate 65 near Clanton, Alabama, when it crossed a grassy median and collided with the northbound sedan containing the teenagers, Alabama State Troopers Corporal Tony Smith said.

The car with the teenagers was then struck again by a northbound SUV driven by a Tennessee woman who sustained minor injuries in the crash, Smith said.

Troopers were trying to determine if weather was a factor after the Tennessee motorist told investigators there was heavy rain at the time of the crash, he said.

All four of the Angola teenagers were wearing seatbelts, but, “it’s just one of those cases where seatbelts I don’t think would have helped,” Smith said.

Funeral arrangements were pending for the teens in Angola, a city of about 8,600 in the northeast corner of Indiana near the Michigan and Ohio borders.

Bauer and Zimmer both played on the Angola High School football team last fall, and Bauer was a quarterback.

(Reporting by Eric Johnson in Chicago and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Steve Gorman)

Four Indiana teens die in crash after spring break