- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

BOKOSHE, Okla. (AP) - Several communities in Le Flore County are mourning three teenagers who died in a weekend vehicle wreck after a police pursuit.

Many gathered at a high school football field in Panama, a town of about 1,400, to remember those killed: 15-year-old Brooklyn Deleplank, 17-year-old Darryn Langdell and 14-year-old Zachary Ritter. A local pastor helped give comfort to those in attendance and people released balloons with messages for the teenagers, The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1UT5Pea ) reported

A candlelight vigil also was held Sunday night in the small town of Bokoshe, where the teenagers had lived. Locals say they’re tight-knit communities where everybody knows everybody.

“It branches out to where everybody is affected,” said Kim McConnell, managing editor of the Poteau Daily News. “Even if you do not know somebody who was immediately affected in this area, it affects you because you hurt for these children, you hurt for these parents, you hurt for the emergency workers and you grieve with them because you know that it’s a painful time.”

Joe Milligan, whose daughter was best friends with Deleplank, said she was “one of those people that had a really likeable personality, and she could always make you laugh.”

She loved playing basketball and dreamed of becoming an oncologist, and Milligan said, “there was nobody that didn’t like her.”

Panama High School Principal Richard Haynes described Langdell, who was known for his passion for hunting and fishing, as an “outgoing and friendly young man.”

Ritter was in the process of enrolling as a seventh-grader in Bokoshe and was known for his moves on the basketball court.

“He had some moves that he could put on the floor,” said Dennis Shoup, superintendent of Bokoshe Public Schools. “He was just a fun, fun ball player to watch.”

Shady Point Police Chief Derek Woodral said the early Saturday morning pursuit began after one of his officers saw a pickup traveling on a highway veer onto the road’s shoulder.

The driver immediately corrected by yanking the wheel, which raised the officer’s suspicion. The officer followed the vehicle after the pickup didn’t stop when he switched on his emergency lights.

The chase ended when the pickup, carrying five teenagers, ran off the road and later struck a tree. Deleplank, Langdell and Ritter were killed in the wreck, while the other two teenagers suffered injuries.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said all five teenagers weren’t wearing seat belts.

Woodral said the officer, who wasn’t identified, knew some of the teenagers but wasn’t aware that was who he was chasing. The officer is taking a personal leave.

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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