Students returned to school Tuesday with heavy hearts as they mourn for two of their classmates. Nearly 300 students gathered outside of Palmer Ridge High School's flag pole to pray for the boys killed in Monday's car crash.
A cross and pile of flowers now mark the spot where two teens lost their lives early Monday morning.
Beau Begier, 17, and 18-year-old Ryan Pappas died at the scene after the vehicle they were riding in crashed near Hodgen Road and Roller Coaster in Black Forest. A third teen, 17-year-old Mitchell "Jack" Clark, survived the initial impact but is now fighting for his life in an area hospital. Authorities say he suffered life-threatening injuries.
State troopers say the person behind the wheel, identified only as a 17-year-old male, faces charges of vehicular homicide. He sustained minor injuries, and was taken to a juvenile detention facility after being released from the hospital. But he could wind up being charged as an adult. A judge will make that decision Friday.
The teen was in court for the first time Tuesday, and stared straight ahead as the judge addressed him. He is being held without bond.
According to State Patrol, the driver blew through a stop sign and lost control of his Mini Cooper, which smashed through a fence and hitting several trees before finally coming to a stop. Troopers believe alcohol and speed were both factors.
Beau was not wearing his seat belt, according to troopers, and was ejected after the vehicle hit one of the trees. Ryan and Jack were buckled up.
The group had been on their way home from a party.
All of the teens involved in the crash were current or former students at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument. As the long weekend drew to a close Monday night, hundreds of shell-shocked students, parents and faculty gathered for a vigil on the school soccer field.
"Seeing how many people showed up and everybody crying...it was the hardest thing I've seen all day, all summer," student Logan Lauser told 11 News.
"I had a lump in my throat the entire day. It's just been hard; I've been around seniors today and they couldn't lift their heads," Lauser's classmate Faylyn Bruecken added.
Friends of Beau and Ryan told 11 News both boys were wonderful people.
"Beau Begier is one of the greatest individuals I've ever met," Student Body President Ryan Best told 11 News. "He's enthusiastic, encouraging, outrageously awesome and I just can't even fathom it."
"Ryan [Pappas] is one of the sweetest guys I know...it was honestly an honor to know him," another student said.
Beau and Ryan were both seniors at Palmer Ridge. Along with Jack, also a senior at the school, the boys were heavily involved in school sports. Friends told 11 News that Ryan was a "stud" in baseball, while Beau was a talented wrestler. The district says the students involved in the crash also played soccer and football.
The boy facing charges had been a student at Palmer Ridge, but recently transferred to a school in Parker, Colo.
Parents of the victims' classmates said that though their children were not involved in the crash, they were grieving too.
"I can't imagine what the parents are feeling right now," Teresa Bruecken told 11 News. Crying, she added that she wanted the parents to know "we are hurting too."
"I can't imagine what it's like for those parents that have lost the kids, for the parents of the boy that was driving, for the boy that's in the hospital--its just got to be gut wrenching," Ken Johnson said.
"This is a horrible thing. So how do you make something good come out of it? Maybe, just maybe, some place this ends up saving someone else's life because they learn from it."
School administration says they know this will be a difficult week for students, and have made arrangements for grief counselors to be on hand all week.
Below is a letter sent by District 38 Monday:
"Dear D38 Family Members:
This message is sent with heavy heart, to notify you of a tragedy this morning impacting many families in our community. This email contains incident information and resources you may find helpful. Please share this and the attached information as you see fit with your own families and children, in the manner best appropriate for their age group and degree of involvement.
Four local boys, including three PRHS seniors have been involved in a fatal traffic crash. Two students have died and one is in critical condition. A fourth student, a former PRHS student, was also injured. The student hospitalized with critical injuries also previously attended LPHS. The fourth student recently transferred from PRHS to a school in Parker.
Law enforcement reports that the students killed are 18-year old Ryan Pappas, and 17-year-old Beau Begier. The student with life-threatening injuries is identified as 17-year-old Mitchell Clark, and an unidentified 17-year-old boy was also injured. The crash involved a single vehicle on Roller Coaster Road this morning around 1:00 a.m. All of the boys were active athletes in various sports including Soccer, Baseball, Football, and Wrestling.
The school and district crisis teams have been activated. Counseling resources will be available to assist students, families, and staff for as long as needed.
Our counselors encourage you to openly discuss this loss, and be aware that it is normal to have varied reactions in the grief process. Withdrawl, anger, sadness, regret, and other feelings are common. Attached to this email, there is a checklist of grief-related responses you may see in students or adults. Please beware of these reactions to help support our community members in this difficult time.
If you or any of your students need counseling support, please do not hesitate to contact your school counselor or crisis team members."