Teen awake two days after Baraga Co. accident: L’Anse Schools mourning after incident that killed 2
L’Anse Schools mourning after incident that killed 2
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include information from Amber Pelon.
L’ANSE – One Baraga County teenager is recovering after a Monday accident that claimed the lives of two other friends.
Christopher Turpeinen of Pelkie, and Dylan Roberts of L’Anse, both 17, were found dead in a running vehicle in L’Anse Township. Hunter Pelon, 17, of Baraga, was found unconscious.
Hunter Pelon had been airlifted to Green Bay after the incident. At first not expected to survive, she was awake and alert Wednesday, according to a GoFundMe page set up for her family.
Some of Hunter’s classmates had traveled to Green Bay for what they thought were their goodbyes. Hunter’s mother, Amber Pelon, called the sudden turnaround a “miracle.”
She was talking and remembered people after waking up, Amber said in a message Thursday night.
“From going from me having to make decisions to her talking to me the next day is just crazy,” she said. “I’m so glad to have her here. She is such a strong, beautiful girl.”
All three were students at L’Anse, which has brought in a number of resources this week to help students and staff process the news. Hunter’s recovery was welcomed by students and staff at L’Anse Public Schools during a week of high emotions, said Superintendent Susan Tollefson
“Obviously there’s an extreme sadness for the classmates that they’ve lost,” she said. “And just amazement with the positive news of Hunter being awake. I think that was unexpected for them.”
Pelon has four other siblings in the district, ranging from kindergarten to seventh grade.
“It’s a small school,” Tollefson said. “Everybody knows these kids and their siblings. We’re happy for the positive news and hope her recovery continues in a positive direction.”
Four to five counselors and social workers from the Copper Country Intermediate School District came to the school Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Tollefson said. Since the CCISD is closed tomorrow, two counselors from the Marquette-Alger ISD will fill in.
HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response has brought crisis dogs to the school, which Tollefson said have gotten an “amazing” response.
A Michigan State Police chaplain trained in crisis intervention will visit Friday, Monday and Tuesday. Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools will also send a counselor Friday. Dial Help may also offer assistance next week, Tollefson said.
“It’s going to be a very difficult week,” Tollefson said. “We appreciate the support from other community agencies, and schools that are sending their social workers to help us cope with this tragedy.”
Three rooms are set up where students can talk to counselors, separated by age group. Mental health professionals recommend establishing a routine and opportunities to return to a normal structure. So students are going to their regular classes, but may be excused to leave for counseling as necessary, Tollefson said.
“We’re trying to provide counseling support – large group, small group, or try to stay in the classroom if that’s what they’re comfortable with,” she said.
The district is also trying to intervene with those closest to the three students, Tollefson said.
Tollefson thanked the staff for their work supporting each other and the students this week.
“Just being together and working together, it shows the strength of the staff, the way they pull together in a crisis,” she said.
Some students have also found some solace in action. A group of high school students planned a memorial at Tuesday’s basketball game, including testimonials from two students, a moment of silence, and empty seats to mark the three students.
Instead of admission, the school set up a voluntary donation at the door. It raised $4,500, split equally between the three families. The referees also donated their checks back, Tollefson said.
Afterward, students requested an interfaith prayer at Sacred Heart Church.
Students also made large banners with the three students’ faces on them, and hosted an impromptu bakesale to raise funds.
“Students like to feel like they’re doing something in a time of crisis to try to make it better,” Tollefson said.
Pelon’s GoFundMe page had raised more than $10,000 as of Thursday afternoon. The family continues to need money for medical expenses; Pelon’s mother is also staying with her in Green Bay, the GoFundMe page said. To donate, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/1wj46remk0.
A GoFundMe page has also been established for the family of Chris Turpeinen. That has raised more than $1,100 as of Thursday afternoon. To donate, go to gofundme.com/f/help-support-the-family-of-chris-chris-turpeinen.