‘This is not how it should be’
Community mourns Girl Scouts killed in hit-and-run crash
CHIPPEWA FALLS - Balloons fluttered in the breeze Thursday morning, pulling at strings attached to a small wooden cross along the highway in Lake Hallie.
A small collection of teddy bears and frozen bouquets of flowers lay at the base of the cross, a memorial to honor the four people — three middle-school girls and one woman — killed Saturday when they were picking up trash along the highway.
“In honor of Troop #3350 and all affected by the devastating loss of life here on 11/3/18. God’s peace and love to all,” the small note from a local church attached to the cross read.
Thursday morning, family, friends and community members packed the Chippewa Valley Bible Church for the funeral service for two of the victims, 10-year-old Haylee Hickle and her mother, Sara Schneider, 32, from the town of Lafayette. It was the first funeral service for victims of the crash, and brightly colored flowers decorated the church as mourners comforted each other. The service was officiated by the Rev. James Woldhuis, who told mourners that the hearts of the community were breaking with the family.
“This is not how it should be, but how it is,” he said.
Colten Treu, 21, is charged with four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle in the crash. According to police, Treu and a passenger were huffing vapors from a bottle of computer
keyboard cleaner before Treu, who was driving, crossed the center line and went into the ditch.
The crash killed Hickle and Schneider and two other members of the local Girl Scout troop: 9-year-old Jayna Kelley and 10-year-old Autumn Helgeson, both of Lake Hallie.
Sara Denure, the principal of Southview Elementary School, where Haylee Hickle was a fourth-grader, spoke to those gathered during the service. Denure shared stories written by classmates about Haylee and how thoughtful she was. She spoke of how the young girl cared for her younger brother, Jasper, and of her mother’s caring nature.
“Both Sara and Haylee will be missed by many,” Denure said. “We were all fortunate to have them in our lives.”
“I can’t help but realize how much Haylee was her mother,” said Emilee Thornton, Haylee’s teacher in third grade, who also spoke.
The women spoke of how creative and artistic Haylee was, often drawing pictures of her classmates in only seconds.
Steve Hein, who helped with children’s ministry in the church, said he knew the mother and daughter well.
“The first thing we knew Sara as was a dedicated and caring mom,” he said.
Thursday evening, friends and community members waited to pay respects to Autumn Helgeson at Our Savior's Lutheran Church, though temperatures were dropping and snow fell on their shoulders. The line stretched the length of the church and out through the parking lot, which was full of cars.
The crash has brought forth an outpouring of love in the Lake Hallie and Chippewa Falls communities and beyond. A local economic development group started a GoFundMe that has raised nearly $60,000 for funeral and medical expenses, and nationwide, the Girl Scouts are holding a memorial at 3 p.m. Saturday that will include community service.
The funeralfor Autumn Helgeson will be at 11 a.m. Friday.
A memorial to Girl Scout troop No. 3305 along Chippewa County Highway P, where three members of the troop and an adult volunteer were killed Nov. 3.