A day of celebration turned tragic for the families of a Brainerd couple who died Saturday as a result of a traffic collision.
Tanya M. Struthers, 16, Brainerd, and her boyfriend, Michael A. Pohlkamp, 20, Brainerd, died Saturday when the vehicle Struthers was driving was struck head-on by a vehicle driven by an unidentified driver.
Struthers, who worked in Brainerd until 10 p.m. Saturday, and Pohlkamp were driving to Little Falls for a family member's wedding dance when the unidentified driver crossed the center line and struck them.
Because of a vehicle fire, this other driver has not yet been positively identified. The vehicle the person was driving was registered to a Twin Cities woman.
The accident occurred at 10:45 p.m. Saturday on Highway 371 north of Fort Ripley.
Kevin Thesing, a parent of Pohlkamp, said the support of family and friends offered to the victims' families has been undescribable. Because of full extended families, the deaths of Pohlkamp and Struthers have influenced many people. "There's a lot of family that loves these kids."
Thesing said the families were in no way prepared for this news. "We're numb," he said. "This is a tragedy that there is absolutely nothing that Tanya or Michael could have done to prevent. It's simply a tragedy."
Thesing described Pohlkamp as an avid outdoorsman, especially when it came to fishing. While reviewing photo albums Monday, Thesing said many of the photographs of Pohlkamp involve fishing.
Thesing also said Pohlkamp was a great listener. "He was a people person that way," he said.
Pohlkamp was active in Central Minnesota TEC. In addition, he enjoyed slow-pitch softball and participated in three different leagues last summer.
Thesing said Struthers and Pohlkamp dated for more than two years. "Tanya was like a part of our family," Thesing said. "We knew these kids so well."
Struthers was a special, mature young lady, Thesing said. "Tanya was absolutely a sweetheart."
Thesing said Pohlkamp was a person who cared deeply for others and was a guy people simply liked. "Michael was one of everyone's friends," he said.
Greg Struthers, Tanya's father, said his daughter enjoyed the outdoors as well as dancing. "She was always my little girl," he said. "Her daddy's going to miss her a lot."
Both Pohlkamp, a 1998 Brainerd High School graduate, and Struthers, a BHS junior, were active in FFA and the school farm.
"(Michael) was very caring, giving of himself to make other people happy," said Mike Reeser, BHS agriculture instructor and FFA adviser with his wife, Denise. "I've never heard a bad word spoken of Michael."
Reeser also recalled Struthers as a hardworking and caring person. He said he would most remember her smile and her laugh. Reeser said Struthers had a great affection for animals, especially rabbits.
Reeser, who opened the school farm Monday night to allow FFA members an opportunity to share their grief, said he was proud to be associated with Pohlkamp and Struthers.
"We lost two that kids looked up to," he said.
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