Friends, classmates, NSU President gather to pay tribute to 5 lives lost

Posted at 5:42 AM, Sep 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-21 12:16:34-04

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is investigating what caused a pickup truck to veer off the road and fall off a bridge, killing all five teenagers inside Sunday night, as many gather to pay tribute at a candlelight vigil.

The 2006 Chevy pickup was on Welling Road, south of Tahlequah, when troopers say it hit the right guardrail, then bounced back and hit the left railing.

The truck went over a 35-foot drop into the creek, landing upside down. Medical responders pronounced all five teenagers dead at the scene.

This tragic accident breaking the hearts of so many at Northeastern State University, where all of the victims were freshman students.

2 Works for You reporter Ashley Holt was on campus all afternoon Monday as students and faculty tried to make sens of the great loss.

Hundreds of students and staff gathered on campus to pay respect to those young lives lost. They were in shock at the news received Monday morning.

Tucked away on NSU's campu is the student memorial bench. On Monday, five names were added to the bench.

It took everyone's breath away as the distraught President of the school broke the news.

Donovan Caldwell, Autumn Seely, Lily Murphy, Drake Wells and Jessica Swartwout never made it to class Monday. They had all died in the accident. All the kids were 18 years old except Drake, who reportedly just turned 19 on Sunday night.

“She loved everyone, very very nice to everyone, she had a great heart," someone said.

Another spoke of Autumn: “I thought I should be here for her and her family and friends that can’t be here.”

A vigil was held on campus Monday night. The NSU Riverhawk Family gathered at Second Century Square to reflect and remember. 
“He was just taken too soon,” Garret Limon said of his friend Donovan. Limon had plans to hang out with his buddy this week.

 “Every time he walked into class his positive attitude effected all of us.”

Trevor Dimock remembers Donovan's ability to light up his algebra class.

“Even if he didn’t know the answer he’d be like, no this is that.”

Each candle at the vigil represented a friend, classmate, roommate or a smile now gone.

“Perhaps this will be a reminder to find what’s  good and right in all of us.”

The tears flowing for now, but not lasting as long as the memories. 

"We will never forget Donovan, Lily, Autumn, Jessica and Drake."

Candles are blown out as the vigil comes to an end.

Some students and staff told 2 Works for You it was Drake's birthday Sunday night.

The President saying he will attend each memorial service and help the families in any way he can.

The collision occurred around 10:41 p.m. with the 2006 Chevrolet Colorado pickup.

Deputies say the vehicle fell about 35 feet into the Illinois River, fully submerging the pickup truck that was carrying the five teens.

OHP, Cherokee County Sheriff's Department, Welling Fire Department and Cherokee Nation EMS responded to the scene.

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