An end of summer trip turned tragic last week for four White County High School graduates when an accident on a South Dakota highway killed one and injured three others .
Christopher Ryan Stewart, 21, of Gainesville, died at the scene, according to Tony Mangan, spokesman for the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. Mangan said Stewart was the driver of a 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan.
Dakota Wood, 21, and Hannah Dalton, 18, both of Cleveland, were listed in stable condition Monday at Rapid City Regional Hospital in Rapid City. The Times could not confirm the hospital for the fourth patient, William Churchwell, 20, also of Cleveland. Mangan said he did not know what hospital Churchwell was taken to, but said he had life-threatening injuries.
“We just have a broken heart right now,” White County School Superintendent Jeff Wilson said Monday. “It’s just a tragedy. We’re all hurting right now.”
The single-vehicle accident occurred just after 7 a.m. Thursday on U.S. Highway 16, seven miles west of Custer in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota, according to Mangan. He said Stewart was driving east on the highway when the SUV left the roadway, “entered the north ditch and hit a cement culvert.”
Mangan said the cause of the accident was still under investigation Monday afternoon.
Wilson said Stewart, Wood and Churchwell were all 2015 graduates of White County High. Dalton graduated in May. Wilson said he knew all four of the former students.
“All four of them are great kids,” he said. “They were involved in lots of things. It was a terrible accident. Our prayers and thoughts are with the families. Our community is trying to do a collection of some money to try to support the finances.”
“All four of them are great kids. They were involved in lots of things. It was a terrible accident.White County School Superintendent Jeff Wilson
Wilson said he was told the former students were on one last trip before the summer ended.
“They were doing some hiking; I think they were going to do several of the national parks,” he said.