NSU Campus Mourns After Tragic Loss Of Five Students
TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma - A crash in Cherokee County killed five Northeastern State University students. The school said it's the worst tragedy the campus has ever experienced.
A vigil will be held for the students Monday night, but the sadness is expected to continue for a long time.
“It's real, it's obviously real. This morning it didn't seem real because I was in shock," said friend Nicholas Young.
Young is one of the nearly 8,000 students at Northeastern State University, and just like his peers, he's mourning five tragic deaths, including his friend Donovan Caldwell.
"My heart sunk and I prayed that it was not him, but it turned out that it was him," Young said.
Caldwell, Jessica Swartwout, Drake Wells, Lily Murphy and Rhianna "Autumn" Seely died when the truck they were riding in crashed through a guardrail on Welling Bridge around 10:30 Sunday night.
The 35-foot drop took their lives.
"We've been around a long time and we've not had a loss this great. It's also an individual loss for each individual family, each friend," said NSU Vice President of University Relations, Ben Hardcastle.
Students said the group of friends was heading to a hangout spot below the bridge for Drake's birthday. Young said when he found out about the crash he immediately knew the spot.
"There is a sharp turn there and it was raining last night," he said.
Police haven't determined what caused the crash, but what's most important to the students now is remembering their fellow NSU RiverHawks who were taken far too soon.
There are counselors available on campus for students and staff. In a statement, NSU President Dr. Steve Turner said, “Activities have been underway throughout the night to provide counselors for the friends and co-students. Notification of the faculty who taught the students is underway. If you feel you need help in any way, please contact HawkReach Counseling Services at 918-444-2042 or Student Affairs at 918-444-2120.”