CHEROKEE County, Okla. - Oklahoma authorities are investigating a deadly crash Sunday night that killed five teenagers, all college students at Northeastern State University, when the pick-up truck they were driving crashed through a guardrail on a bridge in Cherokee County, falling 35 feet to the river below.
The accident happened in the small college town of Tahlequah at the foot of the Ozark Mountains.
Investigators said the 18-year-old driver, Donovan Caldwell, swerved off the right side of the road, hit a guardrail, and overcorrected, sending the truck crashing over the side of the bridge. It landed upside down and submerged in the water below.
The other four victims have been identified as Jessica Swartwout, 18; Drake Wells, 19; Lily Murphy, 18; and Rihana Seely, 18.
Northeastern State University president, Dr. Steve Turner, released a statement Monday that read in part:
"Just before 1:00 am, I was contacted by campus police and informed that five NSU students were killed in an auto accident in proximity to the Welling Bridge, south of Tahlequah. The news was devastating and crushing. ... Their families have been notified.
I cannot fathom the pain the families and friends of these young people are going through as a result of this terrible and tragic accident. My thoughts and prayers are with them.”
The school is offering counselors for those who may need grief counseling.
“This will have a profound effect on all of us and Northeastern State University for many years to come,” Turner said
Oklahoma authorities are still trying to figure out how the accident happened, and whether alcohol or drugs were involved.
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