FORKS — A candlelight vigil for five people ages 17 to 19 drew more than 300 grieving and hopeful West End residents Sunday to Duncan Field.
Three people died when a pickup truck crashed early Saturday morning.
The vigil mourned the deaths of Jaden C. Lohrengel and Tyler J. Ellis, both 18, of Forks, and Shaiyann A. Cummins, 17, of Neah Bay.
And they prayed for the recovery of 19-year-old Forks residents Ariel Morales Sandoval and Gyovanna Morales, both in Harborview Medical Center’s intensive care unit Monday.
Ariel Morales Sandoval, a male, remained in critical condition. Gyovanna Morales’ status was satisfactory while she awaits transfer to an acute-care floor, a spokesperson for the Seattle hospital said.
“Everyone that was there or saw the turnout or heard what people said, said it moved and helped everybody,” Ryan Schuler, 18, a close friend of Ellis’ and Lohrengel’s, said Monday.
“We all prayed with each other and told stories.”
Ellis had returned from commercial fishing in Alaska within the past several days with a new outlook on life.
“He came back, and it was like he was a whole new mature kid, and he was doing a whole lot better for himself,” Schuler said.
Jaden was getting ready to head to lineman school after enrolling at Northwest Lineman College in Meridian, Idaho.
“They were two guys anyone could talk to,” Schuler recalled.
“They would give anything to help someone, give the shirt off their back, and were always making people smile, always cracking a joke, saying something funny, doing what they could to make someone’s day better.”
Danny Winger, a Forks High School career technical education teacher, said Cummins graduated from Neah Bay High School. He was at the service, too.
“‘Sister’ is what we called Shaiyann,” he said.
“Her smile would light up a room.
“Tyler Ellis had a heart of gold.”
Winger said his first period with students Monday was hard.
“I’ve talked to them about how these kids have touched my life, what role they’ve played in my life, just telling them I’m here for them, no matter what the circumstance. My door is open,” he said
“The first day was a shock, the second day, it really starts to set in,” Winger said.
“You lean on each other. It doesn’t matter if you knew these kids or not. It’s like they were your own.
“This part of the job I never even thought of when I took the job three years ago,” he said. “Getting so close to these kids, it’s tough, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Brian King, Clallam County Sheriff’s Office chief criminal deputy, said Monday the investigation was continuing into the crash. It occurred 7 miles north of Forks on Sitkum-Solduc Road — known locally as the A Road — on U.S. Forest Service property, Sheriff’s Sgt. John Hollis said.
Hollis said the wreck was reported at 4:19 a.m. Saturday by people cutting wood in the area. They said they heard a crash 45 minutes earlier and thought it was a tree falling.
The vehicle came off a long, straight stretch of the road and failed to negotiate a slight right-hand curve, King said.
Hollis said the occupants’ pickup truck, driven by Lohrengel, struck a tree.
King said none of the occupants was wearing a seatbelt.
Alcohol and speed are believed to be factors in the crash, Hollis said.
He estimated the truck could have been traveling at 70 mph, adding no skid marks were found on the roadway.
Hollis said beer-type alcohol cans were found in the vehicle.
Pam Gale, a Forks High School track coach and substitute teacher, said Ellis was “a great football player, a great athlete” who, after just returning from Alaska seven days earlier, had realized he had grown up.
The service Sunday night was emotionally overwhelming, she said.
Gale, too, let students know her house is open to them, she said Monday.
“Literally, I could go on to name 100 people in Forks who would open their doors immediately,” she said.
Forks residents were talking about alcohol being a factor, Gale said.
“People are upset about the alcohol,” she said. “Without alcohol, it doesn’t happen.”
Gale said a girl at the service took the podium and warned listeners about drinking and driving.
“To lose three kids, that’s just crazy, just crazy,” Gale said. “Honestly, if we look back in history, it’s always alcohol. At least 95 percent. Dang.”
Pastor Andy Pursley of Forks Assembly of God church was chaplain for the Sheriff’s Office who responded to the incident and made contact with families of the victim. The church counseled family and other community members.
Pursley was at the grieving ground next to Forks High School.
“Grieving is not what’s wrong with us, it’s what’s right with us,” he said Monday.
“It’s a small town, and everyone knows everybody.
“It’s good to have that vigil, where they could honor everyone together.”
Pursley advised community members to keep spending time with each other and to stay close, with smaller-scale funerals likely in the near future.
“We will continue to pray for Ariel and Gyovanna that they make a recovery, and we need to celebrate the fact that they are alive,” he said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].