Omahan Dennis McCann was in Wisconsin last weekend to visit his daughter, her husband and his two grandsons. The family also took in a Cubs-Brewers baseball game in Milwaukee.
By late Sunday night, he and his daughter, Stephanie Orlandini, were standing in front of tire tracks left by a black Mercedes that had careened off a two-lane road and gone 30 feet down a hill into a thicket of brush and trees, where it crashed.
Two of the car’s occupants — former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler, the driver, and Nebraska punter Sam Foltz, the front-seat passenger — died in the crash.
“Why would they have been out here?” McCann asked his daughter.
Sadler was lost, more or less, guided by GPS to Beaver Lake Road in Merton, Wisconsin, in search of former Wisconsin punter Drew Meyer’s house. Though just three minutes from Meyer’s house, the road was nevertheless in a rural area — slickened on Saturday by rain — and it was dark.
The road has no shoulders, and though it is generally straight, Orlandini said, there’s a sudden dip, accompanied by a sharp turn, where the car crashed. Orlandini, who lives in nearby Pewaukee, felt so uneasy about parking her car near the crash that she did a U-turn and parked on the opposite side of the road. She wasn’t sure, with the steepness of the elevation change, that any approaching cars could have seen hers.
McCann compared the area to driving around NP Dodge Park north of Omaha.
They’d heard about Foltz’s death at the Cubs game and seen coverage of the accident on TV. They saw a Michigan State marker at the crash site. Orlandini’s husband, Brian, suggested they place something at the crash site. A 1999 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Stephanie had attended the 2014 Nebraska-Wisconsin football game in Madison. She didn’t have a lot of Husker gear, but there was a red Husker T-shirt in the house, so that’s what they took.
When they arrived, some other Husker fan had placed a red N in the grass, with “RIP # 27” written on the diagonal part of the N. Orlandini and McCann put the red T-shirt on top of the N. A Wisconsin newspaper photographer snapped a photo of the makeshift memorial. McCann learned that the photo had appeared in The World-Herald on Tuesday morning.
The retired 911 dispatch supervisor said he thought it was important to remember Foltz in some way.
“It’s awful — what else can you say?” McCann said. “We had to do something.”
Orlandini said she’d try to find out who put the red N at the crash site. Generally, she said, a lot of the Nebraska fans in the area know one another.
The two didn’t stay long at the site. It was too dark, she said, even at 8 p.m.