LAKE BENTON (AP) -- Alcohol is a suspected factor in the crash that killed three people and injured two others near Lake Benton, Lincoln County Sheriff Jack Vizecky said Monday.
Nathan Johnson, 18, of rural Lake Benton, Alicia Vos, 17, of rural Lake Benton, and Lance Oppelt, 25, of Elkton, S.D., were killed in the crash early Saturday.
Johnson was due to get his high school diploma later Saturday. Instead, his empty chair was draped with a graduation gown, cap, and a cord showing that he was an honor student. Each of the 13 Lake Benton High School graduates, including Vos' brother, laid a rose on the chair before taking their seats. Every one of them signed his diploma.
Vos has just completed her junior year, and her brother graduated on Saturday. Oppelt was a 1996 graduate of the school.
The accident is still under investigation, but Vizecky said there was reason to think alcohol was involved. The sheriff said beer cans and broken alcohol bottles were found at the scene.
Blood alcohol tests will be conducted, but Vizecky said it could be a couple weeks before the results are known.
A joint funeral for Johnson and Vos was planned for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the school. Oppelt's funeral is at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Elkton.
The accident happened at the intersection of Lincoln County roads 119 and 2. Vizecky said a pickup truck driven by Oppelt collided with a car driven by Vos. Johnson was a passenger in the Vos car.
Vizecky said two other passengers from Vos' car were in intensive care Sunday at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D. He identified them as Brandon Oelmann, 15, and Curtis Oelmann, 17, both of Viola, Ill. The hospital said it could not release information on the Oelmanns' condition because they are children.
Dany Castor has worked in the Lake Benton school district for 28 years and is retiring this year. He has been the students' elementary principal, high school principal and superintendent.
"I knew those kids very well," he said. "They were just good kids."
Vos' older brother, Daniel, participated in Saturday's graduation ceremony.
"I thought that took a lot of courage on his part," Castor said.
Castor said the graduation ceremony was toned down because of the crash. Honor students set aside their tradition of speaking about their memories and thanking their parents. And the usual rendition of "Pomp and Circumstance" by the band was instead performed on piano by a teacher.
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