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Saturday evening crash kills three with local ties

There were tears and stunned silence Sunday morning at Farmington Lutheran Church. Less than a day after an accident killed three church members, others at Farmington Lutheran Church were coming to terms with a hole that had suddenly appeared in their membership.

Debra Buhmann, Shirley Iverson and Alexis Iverson-Ferkul died shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday after a westbound pick-up truck crossed the centerline on Highway 50 in Lakeville and hit the eastbound sedan driven by the 34-year-old Buhmann. Iverson, 71, was Buhmann's mother. Iverson-Ferkul, 8, was her niece.

The driver of the pick-up truck, a 17-year-old from Dundas, was taken by helicopter to Hennepin County Medical Center.

Buhmann, Iverson and Iverson-Ferkul were all well known at Farmington Lutheran. Buhmann taught the Sunday school class for third and fourth graders. Her niece was one of the students in that class.

"They were fairly active, willing to volunteer for lots of things," said Maria Tarpinian, director of children's ministries at the church. "Both (Buhmann) and her husband were ushers here. They were involved in many different ways. They were here every weekend for worship. Someone yesterday made the comment that Shirley -- she was here sometimes before the ushers even. She would be the first one through the doors."

Last Sunday was the church's children's Christmas program so there were no Sunday school classes. Tarpinian said the church will have a retired school counselor on hand for this coming Sunday's classes in case any students need help.

"Their presence will definitely be missed," Tarpinian said. "It will be a noticeable loss to the congregation."

The family members will be missed elsewhere, too.

There were counselors on hand Monday at Meadowview Elementary School, where Iverson-Ferkul was a third grade student. Principal Jon Reid said all of the district's counselors were available to students who needed them. He said a couple of dozen students took advantage of the opportunity.

"It's just a terribly sad time, but it's a lot of people supporting each other," Reid said. "She was a sweet girl and a real loss to us."

Life has also been disrupted this week at Farmington's Christian Life School. That's where the 17-year-old driver of the pick-up, whose name has not been released, is a student. Christian Life administrator Darrin Kindle said students have been trying to come to terms this week with the serious injuries to one of their classmates.

"They've kind of gone through the process of the shock that there was an accident," Kindle said. "He's loved and kids care about him. And then the evolution over the course of a couple of days that there was a bad accident to, even worse, people have died."

Kindle said classes were somber Monday and there have been open discussions with students who have had questions. Parents, students and others have sent letters, cards and care packages to the student, who remains in the hospital.

Police are still trying to determine exactly what caused the accident. They do not believe alcohol or weather were factors, but witnesses have said the truck's headlights were off at the time of the accident. Kindle said whatever the student's responsibility is determined to be it will be difficult for him to come to terms with his involvement in a fatal accident.

"That's the challenge," Kindle said. "I think we all know that life will never be normal. It will never go back to the way it was. It will be the new normal."

That is the case in several places around Farmington this week.