July 30, 2012: UPDATE: I-94 crash fatal for two teens; victims all from New Richmond
Two New Richmond teenagers -- ages 16 and 17 -- died Monday afternoon as the result of injuries suffered when their 2000 Dodge Durango struck the rear of a flatbed semi-rig that had slowed in heavy eastbound traffic.
In a news release issued at 5:33 a.m. Tuesday, the Wisconsin State Patrol said the sport utility vehicle was occupied by four people.
The two passengers in the vehicle who died as a result of injuries were Joshua Jacob Goodrich, 17, of New Richmond and Jordan Michael Johnson, 16, of New Richmond. Goodrich was critically injured in the crash and later died at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn.
The driver of the Durango, Zachary D. Zajec, 17, of New Richmond, received critical head, chest and extremity injuries and remains hospitalized. A fourth occupant of the vehicle, Thomas John Wanless, 17, of New Richmond received non-life-threatening injuries.
As of Thursday, Aug. 2, both Zajec and Wanless remained hospitalized. Zajec remained in critical condition and Wanless was listed in good condition, according to a representative of Regions Hospital.
All four boys were student athletes at New Richmond High School, said Casey Eckardt, director of student activities.
Johnson would have been a starter on the football team this fall, according to Eckardt. He also was involved in wrestling and baseball.
Goodrich was a goalie on the school's JV hockey team last year. Zajec and Wanless both played JV soccer.
Morrie Veilleux, district administrator, said the boys were also very involved in their academic careers.
Recent New Richmond News articles identify all four boys as honor roll students at New Richmond High School.
Wanless was also a cast member in the 2012 drama production "You Can't Take It With You" and Goodrich was previously listed as a member of the Forest Timberwolves 4-H Club.
Veilleux said he's working with the high school counseling staff to send notices to the district staff and he expected to send notices to district families later Tuesday.
"Right now we're trying to figure out our plan of attack," said Eckardt on Tuesday morning. "We've been talking to the kids as they've come in for strength and conditioning training. We want to make sure they know what's going on."
Veilleux said counselors will be in place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for students and staff grieving the loss of their friends.
"We're still in crisis mode and still kind of shocked," Eckardt said.
A therapist from FamilyMeans will also be available at the high school on Wednesday and Thursday, said Tom Wissink, high school principal. The therapist will be available from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. to all community members, not just students and staff.
Wissink, who started as principal in early July, said that while he didn't know the boys personally, he had been told they were excellent students and well-liked.
"This is a very sad situation that no one ever wishes upon anybody," he said. "We're just going to do our best to be there for the families and offer our support while they go through this tragic time."
Wissink said several memorial-type ideas have been discussed, but plans had not been set as of press time on Tuesday.
According to the St. Croix County Sheriff's Department, the semi had stopped amid heavy traffic on I-94. The Wisconsin State Patrol reported that Johnson was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash. The other three occupants were wearing their seatbelts.
The semi was owned by Keep N On Trucking of Cadott and was driven by Paul A. Davis, 34, of Cadott. He was not injured.
Three people were transported to hospitals, including two by helicopters. Eastbound traffic was blocked for several hours with motorists detoured down Highway 35 in River Falls and east on Highway 29 to Highway 63 and north to the interstate at Baldwin. The freeway reopened at about 3:45 p.m.
The crash remains under investigation.
The Patrol said agencies assisting included the St. Croix County Sheriff's Department, Hudson Fire, EMS and Rescue, the Roberts-Warren Fire Department, Jerry's Towing and LifeLink.