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NDSU students, staff gather to remember four freshmen

Students gather in North Dakota State University's Memorial Union on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 during open prayer time which was dedicated to the students who were killed in the Monday night accident. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FARGO - Through prayers and pink, North Dakota State University students and staff continued to mourn Wednesday for four freshmen killed in a car crash earlier in the week.

Lauren Peterson, Jordan Playle, Danielle Renninger and Megan Sample died Monday in a three-vehicle crash on snow- and ice-covered Interstate 94.

All four were from the Twin Cities. Playle, Renninger and Sample were suite mates in an NDSU residence hall. Playle was 19, and the rest were 18.

About 30 people attended a Wednesday morning prayer service dedicated to the four women, said Stephen Glasser, head of the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship on campus. He said that's a much bigger turnout than usual for the weekly event.

"There was a need on our campus," said Glasser, a junior. "People were really hurting."

He said many people who attended did not know the victims but wanted to pray for them and their families.

"A lot of people are kind of knit together through this," he said. "It stinks that something like this has to happen."

Many across campus wore pink Wednesday as part of a tribute started by one of the victims' high schools. Students have also been asked to wear purple today.

Students also stopped by an open prayer session in the Memorial Union, also dedicated to the accident victims, in the late morning and afternoon Wednesday.

Mary Schindler, a freshman who attended that session Wednesday afternoon, said she did not know any of the deceased students but lived in the same residence hall as Peterson.

"It's just so hard to think, what if that was me or what if that was one my friends, how would I react or how would my family and friends react?" she said. "I can't even imagine."

She said the atmosphere in the residence hall is one of support.

"It's really just reaching out to their families," she said. "It's hard to deal with, but people are making do with what they can."

The foursome was traveling west on I-94 in a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu when the vehicle crossed the median into the eastbound lane just west of Alexandria, Minn., according to the Minnesota State Patrol.

It was broadsided with a Ford Expedition driven by Lawrence Akers, 58, of Harwood. A Toyota Corolla driven by Kari Christensen, a 48-year-old woman from Hopkins, Minn., then rear-ended the Expedition, the State Patrol said.

All four students were pronounced dead at the scene. Akers, Christensen, and Christensen's mother, a passenger in her car, sustained injuries that were not life-threatening.

The State Patrol said reconstruction of the accident is ongoing, though the process can take months. Troopers are seeking and analyzing a bevy of information about the crash, including phone records - a step a spokesman said is standard procedure.

Funeral arrangements have been announced for three of the students.

A visitation for Playle will take place today from 4 to 8 p.m. at NorthRidge Fellowship in Rogers, Minn. The funeral will be at the same location at 10 a.m. Friday.

Peterson's visitation will be 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Ballard-Sunder Funeral Home in Prior Lake, Minn. A service and funeral will be 11 a.m. Saturday at the Church of St. Michael in Prior Lake.

Renninger's funeral will be at noon Friday at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minn., with visitation an hour beforehand.

Services for Sample have not been announced.

NDSU will hold a memorial service tonight at 9 in the Memorial Union ballroom, with a candlelight vigil to follow at 10.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502

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