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High school student dies in crash with Itasca County sheriff's deputy

A 16-year-old Pengilly girl died from injuries sustained in a head-on collision with an Itasca County sheriff’s deputy on Tuesday morning.

Sierra Rose Matthews, an 11th-grade student at Greenway High School, was killed on U.S. Highway 169 at Itasca County Road 69 in Greenway Township, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.

Greenway Superintendent David Pace said Tuesday was a challenging day.

“We offer our condolences to the family. The whole school is grieving with the family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the students and to the family, especially,” Pace said.

Greenway teachers notified students of Matthews’ death during the school day on Tuesday.

“She was a junior; she was an older student so she had lots of connections. They’re a pretty close-knit group so it doesn’t just affect one class, it affects the school as a whole,” Pace said.

Students received support from the school district’s counselors on Tuesday, Pace said. The Itasca County Children’s Mental Health Services has assisted and counselors from other area school districts and Itasca Community College have also reached out to offer assistance, Pace said.

“Today, a lot of it was dealing with the shock of the event. We’ll have some of the same staff on hand for tomorrow, after the students have had time to contemplate what has actually happened. We know tomorrow’s going to be a tough day for students also,” he said. “We’re going to have those services available and we hope the parents talk with their students and know the additional services are available — talk with their students and we hope that we get through this.”

Matthews’ 1996 Mitsubishi Eclipse was traveling west on Highway 169 at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday when she lost control and her vehicle crossed the centerline into oncoming traffic, according to the State Patrol. Matthews was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the collision, but the vehicle’s airbag didn’t deploy.

Highway 169 was covered in snow and ice at the time of the crash, according to the State Patrol.

Matthews struck a 2015 Dodge Ram, driven by Itasca County Sheriff’s Deputy Cory Michael Rondeau, 32, of Grand Rapids. At the time of the collision, Rondeau was responding to a medical emergency with the emergency lights activated. Rondeau’s airbag deployed and he had no reported injuries, according to the State Patrol.

Itasca County Sheriff Vic Williams declined to comment, citing the State Patrol’s ongoing investigation of the collision.

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