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Six Members of a WI Killed in KY CrashSubmitted: 03/02/2013
Story By Associated Press

ELIZABETHTOWN, KY - Police say six members of an extended Wisconsin family were killed and two injured when their SUV was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer and burst into flames on a Kentucky highway. Minutes later, another crash in the opposite direction injured three, one critically.

Police say the first crash happened at 11:13 a.m. EST Saturday on northbound Interstate 65 near Elizabethtown.

Police say all occupants of the SUV were from Marion, Wis. They were identified as James Gollnow, 62, and his wife Barbara, 62; Marion Champnise, 92; Sarina Gollnow, 18; Soledad Smith, 8; and Gabriel Zumiga, 10.

Police said Soledad and Gabriel were foster children.

The two survivors were also foster children. Police identified them as Hope Hoth, 15, who was transported to a hospital in Lexington with burns and a broken spine; and Aidian Ejnik, 12, who was taken to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville with cuts to the back of his head.

Police say after the SUV was hit, it hit the car in front of it, but the driver of that vehicle had only minor injuries.

The SUV was ``totally engulfed in flames. It was totally destroyed by the fire,'' Master Trooper Norman Chaffins said, adding, ``It's just a charred mess.''

He said one eyewitness told police two people emerged from the blaze and one appeared to be on fire.

The two crashes shut down the busy stretch of highway for about five hours.

Chaffins says despite snow flurries, weather was not a factor in either crash.

The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured and was cooperating with police, Chaffins said. He was not identified.

``He's obviously pretty torn up about everything,'' he said.

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EAGLE RIVER - With her hands folded and head bowed, Northland Pines Senior Class President Sam Hytry stood humbled and empowered Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm praying for Antigo and everyone else that's involved," Hytry said.

Hytry shared those prayers during the school day through a smartphone.

"We sent out an email yesterday and we also used social media like Twitter and Facebook to kind of get the word out too," Hytry said.

The word was actually two, combined in a hashtag: "#AntigoStrong."

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ANTIGO - For the last week and a half many people shared stories of shock, sadness, fear and hope out of Antigo.

Police, students and clergy all spoke out, struggling to figure out why the prom night shooting happened.

For the first time on Wednesday, one shooting victim told his story.

Collin Cooper, 18, said he's doing ok. He spent nearly seven days in the hospital, undergoing three surgeries to get the leg just below the knee on the right track to heal properly. He wraps an ace bandage around his left calf, which covers the wound. He also has stitches from where doctors made incisions during surgery. He also has a vacuum-assisted closure, or V.A.C., for the wound.

"I can't walk yet," Cooper said. "But they said I can put pressure on it in about three to four weeks, I think they said. But I wont be back to walking on it fully for three to four months."
He said doctors told him the bullet shattered 10 percent of his tibia, a major bone in the calf.

"They said the lucky part is it didn't hit any major arteries and it only nicked one vein," Cooper added.

Now Cooper has to sit at home and rest up. His blood levels are still low, and it hurts to hold his leg vertically. Several times a day he has to do ankle and knee exercises to strengthen the muscles around them. Otherwise he has to keep his leg elevated, even while he sleeps, which is in a hospital bed the family already had. He said it's hard sometimes to take it so easy because he's been on several sports teams throughout high school and is used to being very active.

He says when family and friends aren't visiting him at home, he plays video games and watches TV. He can't yet return to school, so he his doing some work from home.

But when you ask Cooper about how he's processing the shooting at prom, he just shrugs.

"I'm kind of bummed to be down right now but I'm thankful and lucky that it was just this and it could have been a lot worse," Cooper said.

He's been bombarded on social media, flooded with questions and friend requests. He's only posted several times since the shooting, with the #AntigoStrong hashtag that's been trending on social media since the prom.

The oldest of five has leaned on his faith, his family and his friends.

"I'm fine I just want people to worry about Collin," said Cooper's friend Spencer Fittante, 17, who was walking out of prom with Cooper when he was shot. Fittante helped tie a his tie around Cooper's leg as a tourniquet.

"I never thought anything like that would ever happen to us, ever," Fittante said.

Still, Cooper won't let the injury keep him from working this summer or walking across the stage at graduation. He joked about practicing walking up stairs with his crutches. He said he thinks his humor helps him cope.

He's proud of and humbled by the Antigo community. He said there are days when it gets hard, but he's got the support of his family and friends. He wants to move on, but he also thinks sharing his experience might be able to help others.

"It's cool to see how the town has rallied around me and the all the other victims," Cooper said. "I think it's kind of a cool opportunity to have to share with people what happened. And I can kind of help them through things too. So I mean I want to put some of it in the past but some of it I want to hold onto so I can be able to help people in the future."

Cooper said his date who was grazed by a bullet is also doing well. He said she is back at school in Illinois. Cooper still plans to work this summer and attend college in the fall. 

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