If you’re a parent, there’s no bigger nightmare than the thought of losing a child.
But that’s a reality that a volunteer firefighter faced in northwestern Minnesota last Sunday.
Randy Peterson was on his usual patrol in the late evening on Sunday, when he was called to a two-vehicle accident near the town of Borup. His sixth sense gave him an unnerving feeling, as he hadn’t been able to reach his 16-year-old son, Carter, that night.
The Star Tribune reported that when Peterson arrived at scene, he saw the car ablaze, and immediately recognized it as his son’s car.
"I dropped to my knees,” he told the Star Tribune. “I was a mess. Another member of the crew just held me.”
The Norman County highway was a routine route for Carter; he would regularly drive his girlfriend, Sarah Hanna, to her home in Hawley.
On Sunday, Carter was returning home from Sarah’s house when a pickup truck struck him on the driver’s side and sent his car rolling into a ditch and catching fire.
Carter had no chance.
The pickup’s driver, Ethan Stensgard, 20, allegedly ran a stop sign and was found to be under the influence of alcohol. Like how many of these unfair tragedies turn out, he survived without serious injury.
Carter was the quintessential average American teenager. He was a junior at Ada-Borup High School and his life revolved around sports. He played basketball, threw discus and shot put for the track and field team, and was also on the football team.
His grieving father spoke of his late son in glowing terms.
“He loved sports,” he said. “He was a walking encyclopedia when it came to sports. He had one of those infectious smiles and a genuine laugh and chuckle. He was always a happy person.”
News of Carter’s heartbreaking death has reverberated throughout the community, which has been immensely supportive of the Petersons, who include his mother, Chastity, his 21-year-old brother, Matthew, and his 10-year-old sister, Emma.
The twisted irony of this tragedy is that as a volunteer first responder, Peterson is likely to have saved or helped many people as a firefighter, yet he was unable to be of help to the one person dearest to him.
Hopefully, the Peterson family will eventually recover from this massive loss and honor the memory of their son and brother by living their own lives to the fullest.