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13. 3 Die, 4 Injured in Early a.m. Crash
A Single-Vehicle Crash In Southeast Des Moines Early Monday Left Three People Dead And Four Others Injured.

Nigel Duara
Des Moines Register
September 3, 2007

Former Hoover High School student Stephanie J. Gray, 17, and North High School junior Matthew Tesch were killed about 4:30 a.m. Monday when the driver of a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe lost control of the vehicle on a curve and crashed into a tree at Southeast 16th Court and Indianola Avenue, police said.

The 22-year-old driver, who was not identified by police, also died in the crash.

Tesch's brother Joshua, 16, a sophomore at North High School, was injured in the accident. He was in fair condition at Iowa Methodist Medical Center on Monday night, where Lincoln High School freshmen Ivan Tapia, 14, and Glen Romero, 14, also were being treated.

Tapia was in serious condition; Romero was in fair condition. A fourth passenger injured in the crash was in serious condition. A police spokesman said authorities don't know the female's identity or age because she had several aliases.

Alcohol and speeding are possible causes of the crash, said Des Moines police spokesman Vince Valdez. Police found broken beer bottles in the SUV and a beer can on the road near the crash site.

Valdez said authorities won't know the driver's blood-alcohol level until an autopsy is performed. Autopsy results will be available today or Wednesday, he said.

Valdez said the crash site is known among authorities to be a dangerous curve.

Details of the crash, such as seat belt use, won't be released until police have finished the investigation, Valdez said.

"When the investigators arrived on scene, two of the fatalities were inside the vehicle," Valdez said. "Everyone else was outside the car. Some people were able to walk or crawl out of the vehicle."

The Tesch brothers' mother was extremely distraught, said North High School Principal Vincent Lewis. She called family in Texas and is worried that she doesn't have the money to bury her son.

Today will be a chance to grieve and cope with the accident and deaths at North High School.

A crisis team of about seven social workers, counselors and psychologists employed by the school district will wait in the school's library for students and staff members, whether they want to talk about the accident or have some time alone, said crisis team coordinator Michael Munoz.

The team will address staff before school starts, Munoz said, then teachers will give details of the accident to students shortly after the first bell.

Staff at North will be watching for students who don't ask for help but may need to take a break or "get out of the structured class environment for a while," Lewis said.

The accident comes less than three days after Amy Larson, 14, was killed in Fayette County on Friday night. Four other teenage girls were injured in the accident after their minivan veered off the road, rolled several times and landed in a ditch. None of their conditions were available Sunday night.

Four other fatal accidents involving teenagers have occurred so far this year.

Kalita Moore, 17, Chris Lowe, 21, and Jolynn Kimball, 25, were killed June 13 on U.S. Highway 34 near Creston after their vehicle was pushed under a semitrailer truck.

Dalton Baumann, 15, of Bloomfield died May 15 in a single-vehicle accident.

Bricy Christine Sturgeon, 15, died Jan. 27 outside of Exira. Sturgeon was not wearing a seat belt and was pinned beneath her car after sliding into a ditch.

Jacob Giles, 15, died Jan. 15 in a head-on collision in Cedar Rapids.

Former Hoover High School Principal Connie Cook did not recall knowing Gray, who was enrolled at the school until last year. That doesn't take away from the impact on the Hoover students who knew her and will be receiving counseling, Cook said.

"It's really hard for a lot of kids. This will be the first death of a young person that they've dealt with," said Cook, now associate superintendent for the district. "Sometimes they've had relatives like grandmas, aunts and uncles, but to have somebody who's young is really harder for kids. When you're young, you think death is far, far away and that it'll never happen to you.

"Students just like to have somebody to talk to. Frankly, it helps to have someone who isn't connected, who is sort of an objective party," she said. "Some kids really respond positively to that, while other students will want to talk to a counselor in the building."

Regardless, students who come together to forge through tragedy can be inspirational, Cook said.

"I think students really turn to each other," she said. "I know we've had situations where someone was injured or died and the kids kind of rally together. It can be kind of a unifying experience for kids too."

Register staff writers Abby Simons and Sarah Lefeber contributed to this article.


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