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Owatonna High School cheerleader killed, 6 hurt in multi-vehicle crash

An Owatonna cheerleader killed in a deadly Rochester crash
An Owatonna cheerleader killed in a deadly Rochester crash 02:16

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Rochester police are investigating a deadly three-vehicle crash that killed a high school senior and hurt six others, including a state trooper.

Early Saturday evening, Rochester Police were dispatched to a multiple-vehicle injury accident at the intersection of Memorial Parkway Southwest and 12th Street Southwest, just north of the Apache Mall. 

According to a preliminary investigation by Rochester police, a State Patrol squad was traveling east on 12 Street Southwest and a Ford Focus was traveling west on 12th Street Southwest, turning south into Apache Mall. The vehicles collided and the Ford Focus was pushed into a Toyota RAV4 exiting Apache Mall, police said. The Toyota RAV4 ended up in the ditch.  

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Olivia Flores, an 18-year-old Owatonna High School cheerleader, was among three young Owatonna women in one of the vehicles. Flores died from her injuries on Sunday, according to police. The two other passengers, ages 21 and 19, were hospitalized. Trooper Shane Roper, 32, was in his squad car with a 20-year-old passenger. Both were hurt, and their conditions are also unknown. A 36-year-old woman and a 12-year-old passenger, also from Owatonna, were in the third vehicle. They both suffered minor injuries.  

The Owatonna Superintendent of Schools Jeff Elstad released the following statement on Monday morning:

"Our heartfelt sympathy is extended to the family and friends of Olivia Flores, a senior at Owatonna High School. Many supports are available at Owatonna High School for our students following this tragedy. Additional counselors and staff will be at the school throughout the week. Students are encouraged to reach out to OHS staff should they need support. If families have any concerns about their child, they should also reach out to the staff."

Mariah Cuellar was a co-captain of the cheerleading team with Flores. They had been friends since third grade. 

"She was always a really trustworthy person so if there was anything going on in my life and I wanted to talk about it even if it wasn't cheer-related, she was always there and gave great advice," Cuellar said.

Flores was also active in Young Life ministries, attending summer camps and participating in their mentorship program. 

"She really just radiated joy. You can see it in her smile in pictures and videos. She really is a joyful kid," said Lindsay Thompson, Steele County Young Life Area Director.

Her long-time cheer coach Jenna Compton said Flores planned to take a gap year and help coach younger cheerleaders. 

"There are some days when it's draining and life is hard, and to walk in and know she's going to be there, she had hugs for everybody and just an uplifting positive attitude, and just always cheering everybody else on," Compton said. 

The cheer team is rallying around each other and her family in a time of great loss. 

"We're having graduation in three weeks, and she won't be a part of it, so that's going to be really hard," Cuellar said. 

The investigation is ongoing. 

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