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by | Nov 5, 2018 | Crime, Current Events, Education, News, Traffic & Roads | 0 comments

A western Wisconsin community on Sunday was grieving the deaths of three Girl Scouts and an adult who were collecting trash along a rural highway when police say a pickup truck veered off the road and hit them before speeding away.

Authorities have not released the names of the girls or the woman who were struck by the truck on Saturday in Lake Hallie, including the name of a fourth girl who survived but was in critical condition at a hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. The girls were members of Troop 3055 and were fourth-grade students at Halmstad Elementary School in adjoining Chippewa Falls, which is about 90 miles east of Minneapolis.

Jayna Kelley, 9; Autum Helgeson, 10; Haylee Hickle, 10, and her mother, Sara Jo Schneider, 32, were all killed when they were hit by a car while picking up trash along a Wisconsin county highway shortly before noon Saturday, said Lake Hallie police.

The driver had veered out of his lane, crossed over the center line and ultimately drove into a ditch, police said.

Another 10-year-old girl was struck and is in the hospital in stable condition, police said.

All members of the group — seven children and five adults — “were in the ditch, not on the pavement or gravel shoulder at the time of the crash” and were “wearing green highly visible safety vests,” police said.

“Our hearts are broken for the girls and families of the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes,” CEO Sylvia Acevedo of Girl Scouts of the USA said in a statement Sunday. “The Girl Scout Movement everywhere stands with our sister Girl Scouts in Wisconsin to grieve and comfort one another in the wake of this terrible tragedy.”

A western Wisconsin school district is making counselors available for students following the deaths three Girl Scouts and a parent who were killed in a hit-and-run crash along a rural road.

Chippewa Falls School District Superintendent Heidi Eliopoulos sent a message to parents saying counselors, faith leaders and trained school staff would be available Monday at two elementary schools. They also were on site Sunday.

Eliopoulos says it’s a “difficult time for our students, families and staff,” and that the district will provide support “for as long as needed.”

Colten R. Treu, 21, drove his pickup truck into the group of Scouts, the Lake Hallie Police Department said. The girls were wearing highly visible green safety vests while participating in a highway cleanup project.

This photo provided by the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin shows Colten Treu, who is accused of striking and killing three Girl Scouts and a parent and critically injuring a fourth girl near Chippewa Falls, Wis., Nov. 3, 2018.

Treu’s bond was set at $250,000. He was due back in court Tuesday.

The Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office said he is being held on four counts of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, four counts of hit-and-run involving death and one count of hit-and-run involving great bodily harm.

Treu, of Chippewa Falls, fled but later turned himself in to police. So did his passenger.

Prosecutors, who claimed True had huffed air duster, an electronic device cleaner, called the crash “eerily similar” to an accident in September in which Treu allegedly appeared to be intoxicated and drove into a ditch, causing his car to roll over.

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