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Friends, classmates honor 5 teens killed in tragic car accident

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Hundreds gathered to pay their respects to five students who died when a pickup crashed into a river in Cherokee County.

It was supposed to be a celebration.

Friends say 18-year-old Donovan Caldwell, 18-year-old Jessica Swartwout, 19-year-old Drake Wells, 18-year-old Lily Murphy and 18-year-old Autumn Seely were out celebrating Wells’ 19th birthday on Sunday.

Around 10:40 p.m. on Sunday, investigators say Caldwell was driving down Wellings Bridge when he allegedly lost control of his pickup.

The truck veered and crossed over the northbound lane and through the railing, falling about 35 feet into the Illinois River.

Sadly, the crash killed all five teenagers inside the truck.

“We left chapter around like 9:45, so it was like, man, between that time, like how did all this just happen?” Tim Gardenhigh told KFOR on Monday.

The news sent shockwaves through the Northeastern State University campus.

“When I found out, I was just devastated. I knew it was Donovan,” said Nicholas Young.

On Monday night, hundreds of students and staff members gathered to remember those who were taken too soon at a candlelight vigil.

Also, university officials added the students’ names to the student memorial bench that is tucked away on NSU’s campus.