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Community mourns teens killed in crash

BENSON -- The community of Benson is mourning as two teenagers are dead and one seriously hurt after a two-vehicle crash around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday about three miles southeast of Benson.

Benson High School counselors and representatives from the local ministerial association were available Thursday to help students cope with the deaths of two students Wednesday afternoon in a two-vehicle crash near Benson.

According to Swift County Chief Deputy John Holtz, Cody DeVaan, 16, of rural DeGraff, and Benjamin Mast, 15, of Benson, were passengers in a northbound 1998 Pontiac driven by Justin Moist, 17, of rural Benson.

The car struck the side of a westbound semi tractor-trailer driven by Benjamin Miller, 33, of Benson.

The crash happened around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the intersection of 30th Avenue Southeast and 40th Street Southeast, also called County Road 14, about three miles southeast of Benson.

DeVaan and Mast were both ejected from the vehicle. All three boys were transported by ambulance to Swift County-Benson Hospital. Despite lifesaving efforts, DeVaan and Mast were later pronounced dead.

Moist was airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. He is the son of James Moist. He was listed in fair condition Thursday morning.

DeVaan is the son of Steven and Sandy DeVaan, and Mast is the son of Becky Mast and Joseph Mast.

Miller suffered minor injuries and was treated and released.

According to the Swift County Monitor-News, DeVaan and Mast were sophomores and Moist a junior at Benson High School.

School officials responded quickly after the crash.

"We had the school open right away," after the accident, Superintendent Lee Westrum said Thursday morning. "The school was open until 9:30 p.m. for kids. By just a rough estimate, there were at times 30 to 50 kids up here. It was just a gathering place for them."

The school counselor and other staff members were also at the school. "There were a lot of us up here; a lot of adults around," Westrum said.

The kids started making some memorial posters and doing some of that therapeutic type of activities they do in times like this, he added.

"What we have found is that the kids really turn to themselves more than they do to us," Westrum said. "We are there. We are available. If we need more help, Counseling Associates will help us if we need it. We have also had offers from two other schools to send counselors if we need them."

All extracurricular activities at Benson High School were cancelled for Thursday.

The Minnesota State Patrol is assisting in the reconstruction of the crash, and the Swift County Sheriff's Office is continuing the investigation.

Also responding to the accident were the Benson fire, police, ambulance and rescue squads.

The Swift County Monitor-News contributed to this story.