PIERSON - The school district and small towns that were home to four young girls killed in a snowmobile accident were facing the challenge of how to deal with such a loss.
The four girls - sisters Andie Phillips, 13, and Kallie Phillips, 10, and Kylie Koch, 10, all of Pierson, and Lauren Herbold, 11, of rural Correctionville -were riding two snowmobiles around the Phillips family's property late Friday afternoon.
Their snowmobiles collided with a pickup truck driven by Daniel Bouc, 16, a high school sophomore from Pierson, an official said.
Authorities said that the truck had come over a hill and that the driver couldn't stop in time on a gravel road to avoid hitting the snowmobiles.
A preliminary investigation found that the accident couldn't have been avoided, according to a release late Saturday from the Woodbury County sheriff's office.
The families of the girls were considering a joint funeral for the four girls, in part so that their young friends wouldn't have to go to multiple services.
The Kingsley-Pierson school district crisis team met Saturday and teachers were scheduled to meet Sunday to discuss how to deal with the students returning to school Monday, said Superintendent Mike Sherwood.
On Saturday, 10 seventh-grade girls sat on bleachers at the middle school in Pierson, hugging and crying. Their basketball coaches talked with them about the accident for the first half-hour of a two-hour practice.
Tim Carlson, an assistant coach and a Phillips family friend, said the girls had a hard time understanding why the accident would happen. He told his daughter, who was a good friend of Andie Phillips, that God wanted Andie in heaven to read to the little kids. "Andie loved to read. She was very smart," he said. "She wasn't out for basketball, but all the girls knew her, we have such a small school."
Jean Larson, a sister of Andie and Kallie's mother, Jackie Phillips, said the four girls were good friends. "I just didn't think anything could hurt so bad. It is bad to lose one, but to lose two ...," Larson said. "Our hearts go out to the families of the other girls."
On Saturday morning, Denise and Doug Koch visited the Jackie and Darwin Phillips family. They put four crosses -each with an evergreen wreath and an angel - into the lawn at the Phillipses' home.
"This is probably the most tragic and devastating snowmobile accident I've ever heard of," said Rod Slings, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' head of recreational safety.
News of the Friday accident traveled quickly through Pierson, a community of about 370 in northwest Iowa.
"There's just a gloom over the town today," said Mayor Max Dunnington.
Denise and Doug Koch had just completed adoption proceedings Oct. 10 for Kylie and her two sisters. The couple had been her foster parents for two years before that.
"I had given her permission to go snowmobile riding after school. She had never been before," said Denise Koch. "But she was so excited about it. She was so bubbly and bright. You should have seen the way they were together all the time."
Bud Herbold said his daughter Lauren was "as full of love as a person could be." He said that although he and his wife had lost their daughter, he knew that her death had answered someone else's prayers for donor organs.
The family permitted medical personnel to keep her on life support equipment until her eyes and heart could be harvested for donation. She was pronounced dead early Sunday.