Dickinson State University Students Found Dead in Jeep Pulled from Pond

(Personal Photo/The Dickinson Press)
Photo: From left, Ashley Neufeld, Kyrstin Gemar and Afton Williamson.

DICKINSON, N.D. (CBS/AP) The three missing Dickinson State University softball players were found dead Tuesday in a Jeep that was pulled from a pond two days after the women disappeared.

PICTURES: Missing Softball Girls

Authorities had been searching since Sunday night for Ashley Neufeld, 21, of Brandon, Man., Kyrstin Gemar, 22, of San Diego; and Afton Williamson, 20, of Lake Elsinore, Calif.

Police Lt. Rod Banyai said police are "still investigating" the cause of the deaths and autopsies are planned.

Banyai said he believes the women were in the vehicle when they made two cell phone calls to friends for help, but he didn't know whether it already was under water when those calls were made.

The Dickinson State University students were believed to be in the white 1997 Jeep Cherokee with California plates when they were last heard from in the calls made to two friends on cell phones before lines went dead.

Police described the first as a "very scratchy" call for help in which one of the women said they were near a lake and water.

Banyai said the pond is about 3.6 metres deep on a farm northwest of Dickinson. He said searchers found vehicle tracks leading into the pond Tuesday afternoon, and searchers in an airplane flying over the site saw oil on top of the water.

The submerged vehicle was pulled from the pond about two hours later, police said.

Banyai said the vehicle will be checked for defects. He said authorities don't know how it got into the pond.

In Brandon, Man., people said they were devastated by news of Neufeld's tragic death.

(Lenny Gemar Photography)
Photo: Ashley Neufeld.

PICTURES: Missing Softball Girls

Jim Nay started coaching her when she was about 12 years old and coached her for more than six years. Nay learned of Neufeld's death Tuesday evening and said it's a feeling of "nothing but total devastation."

She was a "fantastic" player and "a very, very outgoing person," Nay said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press.

"Her work ethic was probably the strongest, her knowledge of the game was very superior. I've coached an awful lot of people from young boys through to adult men, from young girls through to adult women and Ashley was probably one of the top two or three most knowledgeable people I have ever coached".

Nay said Neufeld also knew how to teach the game to younger people and connected with everyone she met.

Nay said he expected a massive funeral in Brandon where the community is grieving the loss.

"I don't know where they're going to house it here in Brandon because I don't think there's a church going to be big enough to hold it. That's just what the love is for the family and for Ashley."

PICTURES: Missing Softball Girls

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