Students and staff at a Kansas military school are in shock right now.
Jake Whitting, an eighteen-year-old graduate of St. John's Military Academy in Salinas who was his class's valedictorian, died in a Conifer-area crash alongside cadets John Yoder and Akinwumi “AJ” Ricketts.
A third cadet, Marshall Otter, survived but was seriously injured.
At around 4:38 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10, according to the Colorado State Patrol, troopers responded to what's described as a single-vehicle rollover crash near 12448 South Foxton Road.
The driver of the vehicle — Whitting, from Glen Head, New York — lost control of his Dodge Dakota pickup, which left the roadway, the CSP reveals.
The truck subsequently rolled down an embankment before coming to rest in a creek.
Whitting, Yoder, a nineteen-year-old from Denver, and Ricketts, a sixteen-year-old native of Nigeria, were declared dead at the scene.
For his part, the seventeen-year-old Otter was ejected from the truck, suggesting that he wasn't wearing a seat belt. He was hospitalized after being found crawling up the embankment.
At this point, the cause of the crash hasn't been pinned down.
But the CSP notes that "alcohol and/or drugs are being suspected and will be investigated by the coroner."
In the meantime, Yoder's Facebook page has turned into a memorial for him and the others who lost their lives.
Here's one photo tribute:
In addition, the Salinas academy posted the following:
The St. John’s family is in mourning today suffering the loss of Jake Whitting, John Yoder, and Akinwumi “AJ” Ricketts after the three perished in a car accident in Colorado.
Jake of Glen Head, NY, was newly graduated and planned to attend Santa Barbara City College with two fellow Old Boys. John of Denver, Colo., and AJ of Nigeria, were both juniors at the school with plans to return to St. John’s their senior year.
A fourth cadet, Marshall Otter of Ulysses, Kan., is being treated at a Colorado hospital for injuries sustained in the accident and expected to make a full recovery.
The St. John’s community of cadets, parents and alumni is a small and tightly bound family. The loss of these three outstanding young men has left an emptiness that can never be filled. The staff and faculty gathered today to share strength, celebrate these young men’s lives, and prepare ourselves to provide the support and caring that their families will need.
We are left to remember the impact they have had on all of our lives and to mourn the loss of their bright futures. Our heartfelt condolences go out to their families and loved ones. Our current efforts are to provide support to them in any way we can.
Additionally, we will seek to provide their fellow cadets with opportunities to gather, share strength, and support one another. In keeping with the bonds created at St. John’s Military School, we will come together to navigate this difficult time.
We have received numerous calls of support from cadets, families, alumni, and friends of St. John’s. For this we are truly grateful. The St. John’s family is amazing in its strength.
Any messages or condolences can be sent by care of the school to:
St. John’s Military School
110 W. Otis Ave.
Salina, KS 67401
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Our sincere condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of Jake Whitting, John Yoder and Akinwumi “AJ” Ricketts. Here's a Fox31 report about the crash.