LaGrange community gathers to grieve three men who died in crash Saturday

Published 8:51 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2022

In a time of tragedy, the LaGrange community came together Wednesday night to remember three young men killed in a car accident last weekend.

Stephen Bartolotta, Rico Dunn and Jacob Brown were remembered as hundreds of people gathered at Lafayette Square for a candlelight vigil, balloon release and prayer service. All three were killed Saturday in a two-vehicle crash on Roanoke Road.

“We are one community, and we are one LaGrange. I am deeply sorry that we have to stand here and come together in this particular situation,” said LaGrange College Athletic Director Terlynn Olds. “But it’s not how we are going to get through it guys. It’s not how we’re going to get through it Panthers. It’s not how we are going to get through it Dunn family. Just know and believe and trust God that we will get through.”

LaQuita Dunn, Rico’s aunt, emotionally read a message, thanking everyone involved in the service. She’d wanted 500 balloons to be released in honor the three men, and at the end of the service, the sky above the square was full of white balloons as everyone in attendance released them into the sky.

“On that Saturday, our life was forever changed in all ways and will never be the same,” LaQuita Dunn said. “We want everyone to pray for all the families involved. These young men lost their life at an early age, but have left their mark and their love to so many people.”

LaGrange College President Susanna Baxter spoke on behalf of the college, reading a prayer.

“Our lives were forever changed on Saturday, weren’t they?” Baxter said. “There is tragedy, but I look out here and think of the budding friendships that will come.”

Mayor Jim Thornton thanked everyone for attending, offering an opening prayer.

“We are going to offer words of comfort, words of healing, words of grace,” Thornton said. “What we pray is for peace for these families. Our community grieves at this time of loss.”

Dunn, a LaGrange native, was described in interviews as someone who always wore a smile on his face — an animal lover who was beloved by his nieces and nephews. He was a high school athlete at both LaGrange High and Callaway High.

Bartolotta and Brown were baseball players at LaGrange College and had just helped the Panthers clinch a conference championship just hours before the accident.

After the service, members of the LaGrange College baseball team stood in a line and one by one gave LaQuita and other members of the Dunn family a hug.

Pastor Michael Jackson and LaGrange College worked together to organize the event.