Maple Lake junior dies in Sunday morning accident

Chris Schneider, a 17-year-old junior at Maple Lake High School, died in a one-car accident on Sunday morning as he was returning home after a long talk with his girlfriend following the MLHS prom and prom party.

According to the Wright County Sheriff’s Department, the accident was reported at 8:50 a.m. at the intersection of County Road 8 and County Road 39 in Silver Creek Township.

Initial investigation indicates that Schneider was traveling northbound on County Road 8 when his 1999 Ford truck left the roadway and entered into the west ditch where it rolled. The vehicle then proceeded eastbound, crossing over County Road 8 and entering a 10-acre pond.

Emergency personnel from the Maple Lake Fire Department pulled Schneider from the truck, which was submerged in the pond. Divers from the Wright County Sheriff’s Department were also called in to search for possible passengers until word was received that Schneider was alone in the vehicle. He was transported to the Monticello hospital where he later died.

Maple Lake firefighter Scott Carriveau praised the efforts of rescue workers Mike Peterson and Bill Blizil, which he said nearly saved Schneider’s life.  “Mike and Bill did something that was absolutely amazing to get that kid out,” he said. “Without that, we wouldn’t have had a chance in the ambulance.”

Carriveau said Peterson and Blizil were able to get on the roof of the submerged truck, reach in and cut Schneider’s seat belt, and pull him out. CPR was administered immediately in the boat and on the way to the hospital. Assistance was provided by Allina and Monticello/Big Lake Ambulance. Also put to use was water rescue equipment purchased last year with funds provided by the American Legion. “If we wouldn’t have had that equipment from the Legion Club, we wouldn’t have been able to do a thing,” Carriveau said.

Cathy Uecker, mother of Chris’ girlfriend and prom date, Tricia, said the young couple spent two hours talking after leaving the prom party at 6 a.m.  “They sat in the school parking lot and talked before he drove Tricia home,” Cathy said. “They’d only been going together for a few months, but they could talk for hours on the phone. They seemed to have so much in common.”

Cathy said that on Saturday, Chris accompanied the Ueckers to a family wedding, wearing his tuxedo and sitting at the head table. “He just fit right in,” Cathy said. “He told Mary James (MLHS principal) that night at the prom that he felt so special because we included him in the wedding.

“Chris was very nice and very sweet,” Cathy said. “He was one of the ones you’d like your daughter to date.”

On Monday morning, Maple Lake High School Principal Mary James said announcements of Chris’ death were read to students at the start of the school day. She said up to four counselors were available throughout the day in the choir room and auditorium, with pastors in the area calling to offer their support as well as counselors from Annandale High School.

“The kids are handling this as well as can be expected,” James said, noting that students worked together to make green ribbons with Chris’ baseball jersey number on them for the baseball team to wear at Monday night’s game. “But just about everyone in the building is wearing them,” she said.

James said Chris was an active and well-liked student at Maple Lake High School. He was a three-sport athlete who lettered in baseball, football and basketball. He earned Most Improved honors on this year’s football team and was named to the All-Conference academic team in basketball.

James said Chris was a top student with an ‘A’ average who earned an academic letter and was recently selected as a Boys County representative. He was also a member of Target Mentors and Student Council.  “He was just fantastic,” James said. “He was a boy who was very positive. For him, the glass was always half full.”

James said Chris “had a lot of color in his life,” not only in the brightly-colored shirts he’d wear to school, but in his outgoing personality and attitude. “One of the kids said, if you could live a good life, that’s the way Chris lived,” James said.

Football coach Bryan Woodley said Chris was set to be the starting safety on next year’s team. “He was a hard worker,” Woodley said. “He developed himself into a great football player and a great student.”  Woodley recalled last week coming home from an away game with the softball team at about 8 p.m. and finding Chris in the gym decorating for prom.

“He’s the kind of kid you wish you had 100 of,” Woodley said. “He had a great attitude, a great work ethic and not a bit of quit in him.”

Basketball coach Tim Staloch agreed with that assessment. “Chris was just a wonderful athlete to be around,” he said. “He worked very hard and loved sports and he was always a player who put the team first.”

Staloch remembered how Chris would come in and help with elementary basketball, serving as a great role model for his younger brother, Matt, who is a student at St. Timothy’s School. “I’ll always remember Chris as being one of our best helpers with the elementary kids,” Staloch said.

Target Mentors advisor Celeste Dahlstrom said that those volunteer efforts made Chris someone special. “He was just kind and helpful and was just one of the kids who was here to make things easier,” she said. “He never had to be asked to do things. He was just a good, good guy.”

Student Council advisor Dave Hansen said Chris was a role model for all of Maple Lake’s kids. “I think that what speaks the most about Chris is that he led by example,” Hansen said. “He did so much and always had an amazing smile and a sparkle in his eye all the time. He was quite the young man.”

Baseball coach Gary Porter said Chris’ parents, Bob and Barb, had raised someone special.  “Chris was the type of boy a mom and dad would be proud of,” Porter said. “He was a kind, thoughtful young man and a gentleman too–respectful, upbeat and always striving forward and looking for the positive and all that is good. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to know Chris from a teacher-student and coach-athlete relationship. But more than that, to have known Chris as one human being to another. Chris, we miss you. I miss you.

“We have lost a solid student, a solid athlete, and one fine young man.”  

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