Four college students perish in wintery crash

by Jim Boyle

A funeral service was held today for Jordan Nicole Playle, a 19-year-old Otsego woman, at Northridge Fellowship in Rogers.

Another funeral is planned tomorrow (Feb. 25) at Word of Peace Church in Rogers for Megan Ruth Sample, an 18-year-old Rogers woman.

Their funerals will be among four altogether in just two days.

Playle and Sample, who graduated from Rogers High School in 2011, were among four college students and friends who died Monday in a head-on crash on Interstate 94 near Alexandria. The other women were Lauren Peterson, 18, of Prior Lake and Danielle Renninger, 18, of Excelsior.

Authorities say the four North Dakota State University students were in a car heading west on their way back to school when they crossed the median and collided head-on with an SUV traveling in the eastbound lane. That SUV was then hit from behind by a third vehicle. The crash happened in the eastbound lanes near mile marker 97 just after 3 p.m. Monday.

The Playle family issued a statement this week through the Elk River Area School District, and in it asked for the media to respect their desire for privacy. The statement  read:

“We would like to express our deepest condolences to the other families involved in this tragedy. We will miss our little girl.

“Jordan approached life with great joy and happiness. She loved life, and brought the best out in the people around her.

“Jordan enjoyed meeting other people and valued the differences in everyone. No one could have had a better daughter, sister, or friend!  We thank you for your continued prayers and support during this difficult time.”

Grief counselors were called to Rogers High School this week to help students deal with the news of the tragedy.

“Jordan and Megan epitomized the best, not only as students, but more importantly as citizens of our community,” Rogers High School Principal Roman Pierskalla said in a statement issued earlier this week. “Their loss will be felt well beyond our school community, and our memories of Jordan and Megan will last a lifetime.”

The NDSU Alumni Association started a guestbook this past week to share  thoughts for the families and friends of Playle, a first year student in marketing; Renninger, a first year student in marketing; Peterson, a first year student from Prior Lake who had yet to declare her major; and Sample, a first year student in apparel, retail merchandising and design.

“This is a very sad and heartbreaking experience as we lost four beautiful young women who will always be part of our Bison family,” said  Sherri Schmidt, an associate executive director for NDSU.

Playle is listed in the 2011 Rogers High School yearbook as “Best at Life,” an honor likened to most likely to succeed that is often awarded.

Both students were on the honor roll and took part in the school’s DECA program.

The parents of both girls paid tribute to their daughters in their high school yearbooks with words of thanks and wisdom.

Dennis and Julie Sample said this:

“From a pudding-faced toddler to a beautiful young woman, what a pleasure to watch you grow up. Life’s journey will bring joy, success and challenge; be grateful for joy, humble in success and courageous when challenged.”

Rob and Kerry Playle and Jordan’s brother, Dylan, signed this yearbook entry:

“You’ve been such a blessing to Dad and I and we’re so proud of the beautiful person you’ve become inside and out. Remember to put Christ in all you do. We love you so much, Punkin!”

The funeral service for Sample will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Feb. 25) at Word of Peace Lutheran Church, 21705 129th Ave. N., Rogers. Visitation will be from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday at the church. Memorials preferred to the Sample family.

State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow said three other people were injured in the crash, which involved three vehicles, but they have since been released from local hospitals.

Radio station KFGO in Fargo says snow was reducing visibility on the interstate, and that the roadway was slippery at the time of the crash.

Grabow said weather will be a factor in the investigation, but they have yet to determine the exact cause of the crash.

He said Thursday in an email that a full reconstruction of the accident could take two to three weeks.