Sleepy Eye community mourns victims

SLEEPY EYE – Several hundred people attended a prayer service Saturday evening at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Sleepy Eye for Friday evening’s motor vehicle accident victims, survivors, their families and friends.

A candlelight vigil was also held at Sleepy Eye High School.

“Our brothers have been swiftly and violently taken from us,” said Father Aaron Johanneck at the St. Mary’s service.

“Few things are as difficult in our lives as coming face to face with the inexplicable. Life’s greatest mysteries are of life and death… Although we have emotions of disbelief and some have anger, He will not abandon us. He’ll be with us to the end of time, holds us in His hand. He is our rock and refuge. We don’t know all the answers, but we have two answers, love God and trust Him.”

Johanneck said every human being is a gift from God. “When we look in their eyes, we see a child of God,” he said. “Support one another, gain strength from one another. We need to rely on each other. Give each other strength for our faith in God.”

Johanneck called for prayer for God to be in people’s hearts, to trust in God and pray for the young men who died and survived in the car, the young man and his children in the pickup truck and their families and friends.

After the service, ministers remained at the church to meet and pray with the families and friends of those involved in the accident.

Sleepy Eye Fire Chief Tom Moldaschel said earlier in the day that 18 firefighters responded to Friday’s accident, on an ice and snow-covered curve of Highway 14.

“We had 12 guys out at the scene, three at the station, three at the hospital, clearing the (helicopter) landing pad, plus two ambulance crews were rolling on extremely icy road conditions with ground drifting. The weatherman advised no travel,” Moldaschel said. “We gave it our best shot. Some guys (firefighters) are really upset about it. We’ll have a debrief on it Monday.”

Moldaschel, who operates a family-owned vehicle repair and towing business, said he spent a long time pulling vehicles out of the ditch and towing them Friday. “I was called to a couple rollovers on Highway 14 earlier Friday. It was very icy all the way from Sleepy Eye to Springfield,” Moldaschel said. “Weather and road conditions the last two months have been tough on everyone. We’ve really been busy responding to accidents. This is the toughest winter we’ve had in a while. In the towing business we call it a closed winter, when the ditches are full of snow and the road ices over quickly when it gets windy. The State Highway Department plows roads and puts down salt, but the road is in difficult driving condition within minutes. People need to be more patient and wait out the bad weather.”

Sleepy Eye Public School Supt. John Cselovszki e-mailed a news release Saturday regarding the accident, which claimed 2012 Sleepy Eye High School graduate Tyler Hadley and 2013 graduate John Mangen.

“We are working with our Crisis Response Team and community support organizations to provide the necessary support to our students and staff,” the released stated.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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