Janesville51.1°

Seven Big Foot students injured in crash

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Kayla Bunge
September 30, 2009
— Seven Big Foot High School students were badly injured in a crash Tuesday night while they were toilet-papering houses for homecoming.

The 1999 Ford Crown Victoria they were riding in smashed into a tree along Cobblestone Road west of Walworth-Linn Townline Road about 9 p.m.


The driver, John E. Vanvleet, 17, failed to negotiate a curve, according to the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office.


Vanvleet and all six passengers were injured. Four passengers were able to get out of the car on their own, but three had to be extricated by firefighters, according to the sheriff’s office.


Vanvleet was flown by helicopter to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, where he was in good condition Wednesday.


Jennifer S. Carlson, 16, was flown to Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Wauwatosa, according to the sheriff’s office.


Kyle R. Cooper, 16; Alexander T. Newman, 14; Thorgren F. Peterson, 16, and Karl A. Springhorn, 16, remained hospitalized Wednesday at Mercy Hospital, Janesville.


Taylour K. Scaggs, 15, was taken by ambulance to Aurora Lakeland Medical Center in Elkhorn, according to the sheriff’s office.


Because the injured are juveniles, the hospitals would not release information about their conditions.


This is homecoming week at Big Foot, and toilet-papering houses is a long-standing tradition, said Scott and Michelle Peterson, parents of passenger Thorgren Peterson. He suffered a bad concussion along with bad bruises and sprains as a result of the crash, they said.


“They were just out having some innocent fun,” Michelle said.


Toilet-papering is not a school-sanctioned homecoming activity, Principal Mike Hinske said.


Rumors are swirling that the students were being “chased” down the road by the person whose house they had toilet-papered, sheriff’s Capt. Scott McClory said. Those rumors are not true, he said.


“I have not heard any credible evidence from anyone, anywhere that they were being chased by an angry neighbor,” he said.


Scott and Michelle Peterson said their son doesn’t remember the crash but was starting to regain his short-term memory Wednesday afternoon.


The Petersons said their son was lucky he suffered only a concussion and bruising. Five of the students suffered several broken bones and were hurt “really bad,” they said.


Nine students—all friends—were out in two cars earlier Tuesday night. It is unclear how the seven involved in the crash ended up in one car later that night, the Petersons said.


The Petersons hope their son and his friends learn a lesson.


“You don’t have to be drinking to get into a crash,” Michelle said. “You can just be driving too fast or not paying close enough attention.”


The Petersons said all the students were tested for drugs or alcohol, and none tested positive.


McClory said deputies still need to interview the students.


School staff and students were briefed Wednesday morning about the accident, Hinske said. Counselors were made available for staff or students who wanted to talk, and several people took advantage of the services, he said.



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