When Lauren Lewis logged onto her Twitter account Friday morning, she didn’t anticipate the news she would find there — that her neighbor, family friend and former classmate Cole Patrick had died in an early morning crash.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Later Friday, Ms. Lewis and a friend, Jane Gray, joined others in stopping by the crash site, located on Cook Road just east of U.S. Highway 169. Visitors set up an impromptu memorial on the north shoulder of Cook Road, which included a white cross that gathered flowers and trinkets throughout the day.
Ms. Gray said she too was feeling a sense of shock.
“It was unbelievable because we knew him and are close to him,” she said. “It really could have happened to anyone.”
Police said Mr. Patrick, an 18-year-old St. Joseph resident, was one of three people in a pickup involved in the crash. He was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 3 a.m.
He was the back-seat passenger in the pickup, which was eastbound on Cook Road when it left the road and struck a tree on the passenger side. He was not wearing a seat belt.
Police Capt. Matt Rock said the road was damp, but clear of ice and snow. Police believe alcohol and speed were factors in the crash.
The driver of the 2007 Chevrolet pickup, 17-year-old Dylan S. Pierce, of DeKalb, Mo., was transported to Heartland Regional Medical Center with minor injuries, authorities said. He was later charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to a probable cause statement.
Mr. Pierce’s blood-alcohol level was listed as being two times the legal limit, at .18 percent. He was being held on $25,000 bond late Friday.
The front-seat passenger, 18-year-old Brent S. Bush, also of DeKalb, was transported to the hospital by private vehicle. He suffered minor injuries, police said.
Police closed a portion of Cook Road after the accident until shortly before 9 a.m.
Ms. Lewis said she and Ms. Gray, both currently juniors at Bishop LeBlond High School, knew Mr. Patrick through school — Mr. Patrick graduated in 2012. Ms. Lewis’ brother was also friends with Mr. Patrick, and their parents were close. Mr. Patrick was a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Ms. Gray said they wanted to come to the crash site to reflect.
“Because he was our neighbor, and we felt like we needed to pay our respects, because there’s not really much you can do in a situation like this,” she said. “So anything helps.”
Ms. Lewis said Mr. Patrick was well-loved by his peers.
“I would see him at parties and he was always the life of the party, smiling and he was always happy,” she said. “Everyone was friends with him and he didn’t have any enemies. Everyone loved him. He was really funny.”
Beyond visiting the site, Ms. Gray added that she will continue to keep the Patricks in her thoughts in coming days.
“I’m praying for their family, because they’re really great people,” she said.
The school was scheduled to hold a prayer service Friday evening at Hindery Chapel.