- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - A military school in central Kansas is mourning three current and former students who died in a rollover crash in Colorado, including a 2016 class valedictorian who had graduated days earlier.

St. John’s Military School cadets John Yoder of Colorado and Akinwumi “A.J.” Ricketts of Nigeria and graduate Jake Whitting of New York, the Salina school’s valedictorian in the Class of 2016, died Tuesday at the scene of the crash about 40 minutes southwest of Denver, the Salina Journal (http://bit.ly/220AQ38 ) reported.

“It’s a devastating blow. They’re all wonderful boys,” St. John’s Military School President Andy England said Wednesday morning.

A fourth student, Marshall Otter of southwest Kansas, survived and was taken to a hospital. A hospital spokeswoman declined to comment on his condition Wednesday due to the family’s wishes.

“His prognosis is fairly positive, from what little information we’ve received. We’ve had people visit him in the hospital. It appears he might get through this without any permanent physical effects,” England said

According to Colorado State Patrol, Whitting lost control of the pickup truck that the four were in, causing it to leave the road, roll down an embankment and come to rest in a creek.

A coroner will investigate whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash.

When the school was altered of the accident Tuesday night, students had already left for the summer.

St. John’s Military School held commencement ceremonies Saturday at which Whitting spoke. He graduated with a 3.87 grade point average and the highest ranking officer position for students.

England said Whitting and Yoder were standout athletes and were top-notch leaders in all aspects of school life.

“We’ll do anything within our power to provide the strength and support those families need,” England said. “The nature of St. John’s is we grow so very close to these families and their sons.”

Grief counselors were made available on the school’s campus in north Salina.

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Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, http://www.salina.com

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