There were tears and hugs as around 400 people gathered to pay tribute to three teenagers who died in a car crash earlier this week.
At the 8 p.m. gathering on Wednesday, June 2, family, friends and community members remembered Reagan Alves, 14, Jordan Stores, 17, and Zackary Briant, 18. Alves was a student at Estacada Middle School, and Briant and Stores attended Estacada High School.
After spending Memorial Day with friends along the Clackamas River, the three died in a car crash on Springwater Road around 9 p.m. Monday, May 31. The driver, 18 year old Estacada resident Devin Kurtz, is charged with three counts of second degree manslaughter, DUII, reckless endangering, reckless driving, third degree assault DUII and second degree criminal mischief. He had previously been in the hospital for treatment of a punctured lung.
A fourth passenger in the vehicle, 17 year old Kya Bentley, was released from the hospital on June 2.
As the sun set over the lawn in front of Estacada High School, candles burned as the community recalled the young lives lost. Some brought flowers and balloons to the vigil, which was organized by Estacada Community Watch.
Many who spoke during the event recalled Alves as a little sister. A fellow 4-H participant recalled participating in friendly pranks with her. Teammates said the basketball court and softball field would feel strange in her absence.
Mallory Guilfoyle said Alves was one of her best friends, describing her as "one of the happiest people that I've ever met."
Kari Hulsey, who was Alves fifth grade teacher, affectionately recalled her as "Hurricane Reagan."
"Reagan had such amazing energy," Hulsey said. "I absolutely adored that she was a champion for the underdog. If there was anybody who didn't have a friend or who was having a bad day, Reagan was right by their side."
Vigil attendees said that Stores was "such a goofball, and a class clown" who had a contagious smile.
Stores' brother Chet described him as "one of the most joyful, happy kids I've ever met."
"It breaks my heart he's gone," he said. "My heart just goes out to all the families that lost a loved one this weekend."
Calla Baker, Stores' girlfriend, said he was always striving to make others happy.
"His favorite thing to do was stargaze, every night. So when you go and look at the stars whenever they're out, please remember that that was one of his favorite things to do," she said.
Friends said Briant treated everyone like they were his family. He was a talented singer, and fellow students remembered encouraging him to try out for the school's choir.
Gavin Delazerda recalled how Briant took him under his wing when he was new at school.
"He walked right up to me and was like, 'You don't got any friends? Well, come hang out with me," Delazerda said. "He introduced me to a whole friend group. I'm really appreciative of him, and I know if he was here right now he would want all of us to be happy, and to not necessarily mourn his death, but celebrate his life."
After recounting the time she and Alves went to Dave and Busters for a birthday party, Dakota Hansen encouraged her fellow Estacada High School students to come together during this difficult time.
"I just want to say to everyone that we are all here for you if you ever need someone," she said. "It doesn't matter what time. If you want to be friends, just come up to me and say hey. I hope everyone gets through this. Everyone's strong, and I love you all, even if I don't know you."
Krystal, the mother of several students in Estacada, encouraged fellow parents to hold their children close. She added that her son is close friends with Kurtz and described him as "like a second son."
"Devin is a wonderful person. He's got a great heart," she said. "I think he made a poor choice that impacted several lives, but for all of you that know him, that was not his intent that day to go out and hurt anybody. They were having fun, and they thought they were invincible. And so I hope you remember that there's another family out there hurting just as badly."
Tami Yeager, a secretary at Estacada High School, said school staff are ready to support students.
"We do what we do because we love you. You're the reason we do that we do, and I want you to know that we're here for you."
Estacada Mayor Sean Drinkwine said he was "completely heartbroken" for the families who had lost someone.
"I want to be there for them, if there's anything they need," he said. "This is not a good way to end the year, and go on to the next year. But I'm hoping we'll get through this. We'll remember these children, for their sacrifice, and what happened. And we will never forget that."
Guilfoyle, who had been with Alves, Stores, Briant, Bentley and Kurtz prior to the May 31 car crash, noted that the group had a memorable day together.
"All of them had a great day down at the river. We went to the skate park, and then they went down to the rock," she said. "I know that all of them want us to be happy and remember them."
As the night came to a close, local pastor and counselor Tony-Long Drew led the crowd in singing "Amazing Grace." Counselors and church leaders were also available for anyone who needed to talk.
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