At the end of the school week, the three teenagers piled into a sport utility vehicle and journeyed at dusk along a rural road that leads to Vala's pumpkin patch near Gretna.
Madeline Shely, 16, was at the wheel. Her boyfriend, Nathaniel S. LaFave, 15, sat next to her in the Jeep Cherokee.
In a back seat was Carly Ann Kelly, 15, Madeline's friend from their days as grade school students at St. Stephen the Martyr.
Southbound on 180th Street, Madeline failed to yield to an eastbound pickup truck at the intersection with Nebraska Highway 370, according to a preliminary investigation by the Sarpy County Sheriff's Office.
Nathaniel was killed.
Madeline and Carly Ann, sophomores at Marian High School, were taken to the Nebraska Medical Center by helicopter. A hospital representative said they were in critical condition Saturday night.
The violent collision splintered the young people's lives in an instant, leading to prayer gatherings and a roadside memorial.
Nathaniel was a sophomore at Mount Michael Benedictine School, where he ran on the cross country team.
He boarded at Mount Michael during the week and returned home on weekends, said David Peters, head of school.
“Tremendous kid,” Peters said. “Wonderful young man.”
Nathaniel treated everyone like he was their best friend and they were his.
He was chosen last year to be profiled in promotional videos in which he discussed life at the school in the Elkhorn area.
“He loved being a Mount Michael Knight,” Peters said.
Marian students gathered Saturday evening at the school's healing garden to pray for Nathaniel and their injured classmates, who are members of the school's cheerleading squad.
Susan M. Toohey, head of school at Marian, visited the girls at the hospital Saturday and planned to return this morning.
Stop signs are in place for north- and southbound traffic on 180th Street at the intersection with Highway 370.
Madeline received a provisional operator's permit in August. It prohibits the holder from driving with more than one person under age 19 in the vehicle during the first six months, though relatives are exempted.
Alan Hynce, 50, of Omaha, the driver of the Dodge pickup, was not injured. Both vehicles were found in a ditch, said Sheriff's Lt. Chris Culler.
Nathaniel's funeral Mass will be held Wednesday at St. Stephen the Martyr Church.