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Prom night collision kills three teens in Polk County

Author / Coordinator: Chao Xiong and Tom Ford
Star Tribune
May 2006

Two teenagers driving to the prom at Fosston High School on Saturday night collided head-on with a teenager driving home from work. All three were killed and the night's festivities were canceled.

The victims were Michael Hove, 16, of Fosston, and Emily Setum, 16, of Plymouth — who were in the same car — and Adam Steinmetz, 15, of Mahnomen, the Associated Press reported today.

The accident happened about 8:15 p.m. on Polk County Road 6 about 3½ miles south of Fosston, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. The Fosston teen was driving north; the Mahnomen boy, a ninth-grader, was alone in his vehicle, which was southbound.

The teenagers were pronounced dead at the scene. No one was wearing a seat belt, authorities said.

Hove's parents, Ken and Roxanne Hove, had arrived at the school early to get a seat for the Fosston High prom's Grand March. But when the procession finished without their son and his date, the father drove off to look for them. He saw the flashing emergency lights from miles away.

Students at Fosston High had just finished the Grand March; a spotlight was shone on them and they were introduced to a crowd of parents. Shortly after 9 p.m., they were told about the accident, said Bernadette Sorenson, the school's dean of students.

"Horrific," she said about the turn of events.

"The joy and excitement of a big formal dance -- everyone was excited ... and then the tragic death of a schoolmate, it's indescribable."

Paula Polasky, a friend of Hove, said, "Everyone just sat along the bleachers and just kind of sat, didn't say a word. I mean, people were crying, and prom didn't seem like such a big deal anymore.''

School officials canceled the dance and post-party. The approximately 110 students in attendance were asked to call their parents for rides home, Sorenson said.

"It was safer to have parents escort them home," she said.

Sorenson said the school would try to make today as normal as possible.

"We're a pretty close community as far as helping one another and at times like this you need to carry on as closely to normal as you can,'' she said.

Several students were bused that night to Hope Lutheran Church, which also was open to mourners Sunday night.

About 40 people gathered there Saturday, joined by several pastors from other area churches, said the Rev. Paul Magelssen, pastor of the Hope and Zion Lutheran Parish.

The crowd Sunday night numbered about 100, mostly students who shared stories about their classmate, he said.

The Fosston boy, a junior, was heavily involved in church youth activities and choir, Magelssen said.

"He was just a kid with a smile and a willingness to help and to love people," he said.

Magelssen said church services Sunday morning were subdued and difficult.

"I tried to deal with [the crash] a little bit," he said. "The why question is one that we can't answer. I've actually been preaching on a series of sermons called the difficulty of believing. This is an event, a tragic event, that doesn't make it easy for us to believe."

Magelssen and other pastors planned to be at the school today to talk to students and teachers. Sorenson said the school will try to make today as normal as possible.

"We're a pretty close community as far as helping one another, and at times like this you need to carry on as closely to normal as you can," she said.

About 300 students from a handful of surrounding communities attend the school for grades seven through 12.

Mahnomen School District Interim Superintendent Jerry Nesland said the Mahnomen ninth-grader was going home from a farm-related job when the accident occurred.

School officials from both districts said news of the accident spread quickly in the close-knit communities. Fosston is about 285 miles northwest of the Twin Cities and 35 miles west of Bemidji.

Mahnomen is about 20 miles southwest of Fosston.

The Associated Press contributed to this report