Fatal crash near Detroit Lakes update: Family struggles with loss

Joyce Norcross lost a brother and two nieces in a Fourth of July crash that also left a fourth person dead and injured three others near Detroit Lakes.

Joyce Norcross lost a brother and two nieces in a Fourth of July crash that also left a fourth person dead and injured three others near Detroit Lakes.

On Monday, Norcross and relatives were making plans for funerals Thursday and bracing for when they would view the remains of their loved ones, which they hadn't yet seen because the bodies had been sent to the Twin Cities for autopsies.

"It's very devastating for all of us," said Norcross, whose brother, Gregory Norcross, 45, of Ponsford was among those who died Saturday.

The others were Kayla Norcross, 24, Charlene Norcross, 22, and Scott Adams, 28, all of Ponsford.

Joyce Norcross said Charlene and Kayla were her nieces.


The young women were cousins but acted more like sisters, Norcross said.

"They did everything together, them two. They hoop-danced and they taught hoop-dancing. They lived their whole life doing things together," Joyce Norcross said.

She said the deaths added to an already strong sense of loss over the death in May of George Fairbanks Sr., grandfather of Charlene and Kayla and an elder and spiritual leader of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe.

"Charlene, she was still grieving very hard for him. She wasn't over it yet," Joyce Norcross said.

Norcross said a memorial for Fairbanks, who was also known as Joe Bush, is planned as part of an August powwow in Pine Point, Minn.

She said the event will now likely include a remembrance of those who died in the crash, which happened on Highway 37 about 30 miles northeast of Detroit Lakes.

A van carrying the Norcrosses and four others left the road and struck a field approach about 2:40 a.m. Saturday, according to the Becker County Sheriff's Department.

Among the fatally injured was Scott Adams, 28, of Ponsford, whom Joyce Norcross described as a friend of the family.


Donna Peake, 22, of Ponsford, Kayla's sister, was injured in the crash.

Peake was listed in critical condition Monday at Innovis Health in Fargo.

Chad Stewart, 26, of Detroit Lakes, was taken to St. Mary's Innovis Health in Detroit Lakes after the crash. A hospital spokeswoman said he was to be discharged Monday.

Joyce Norcross said Stewart is the son of her first cousin.

Amber Goodman, 23, of Ponsford, who was also injured in the crash, was in guarded condition Monday in MeritCare Hospital in Fargo.

Joyce Norcross described Goodman as Stewart's girlfriend.

"Basically, it was just a bunch of friends out hanging," said Joyce Norcross, describing the outing that fateful night.

The incident remains under investigation and the van involved has been sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to determine who was sitting where and who was driving at the time of the crash, said Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon.


Gordon said initial indications point to excessive speed and alcohol as possible factors in the crash, but he said an accident reconstruction and analysis of blood samples will likely tell more.

"The forensics from the laboratory - blood samples, etc. - we're waiting for the analysis there. It's probably going to be six to eight weeks out before we have those answers back," Gordon said.


The Forum and the Echo Press are both owned by Forum Communications Company.

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