Minnesota Volunteer Firefighter Was First Responder to Fatal Car Crash That Killed Teen Son

By Chika Dunu
Chika Dunu
Chika Dunu
October 21, 2016 Updated: October 21, 2016

A Minnesota volunteer firefighter arrived at the scene of a fatal car crash to find his son as the deceased victim.

Randy Peterson, of Ada, Minnesota, received a report of a two-vehicle crash near Borup, Minnesota, at around 10:00 p.m. on Oct. 16. As he rushed to the scene, he made several attempts to contact his 16-year-old son, Carter Peterson, to no avail.

Carter was heading home after dropping off his girlfriend at her residence when a 2001 Dodge Ram driven by 20-year-old Ethan Stensgard allegedly ran through a stop sign, barreling into Carter’s 2008 Dodge Avenger. 

According to the incident report, Carter was traveling north on Highway 9 when Stensgard—who was traveling east on Country Road 39—collided into the driver’s side of the Avenger. The impact sent both vehicles east from the intersection, rolling over. The Dodge Avenger came to a stop on its roof before catching on fire. Carter died at the scene. 

“Seeing the car on fire and the rims, I knew [it was my son],” Peterson said in an interview with the Minnesota Star Tribune on Thursday. “I dropped to my knees. I was a mess. Another member of the crew just held me.”

He added, “Carter was probably the most cautious driver, two hands on the wheel, and he never sped. He did nothing wrong.”

Fire Chief Steve Petry and Peterson’s friend drove the distraught father home that night. He described the ride as a “stunned stupor.”

“I tried to give comforting words to Randy and had my hand on his shoulder the whole way back,” Petry told the Grand Forks Herald.

Petry added, “It hits pretty close to home and hits pretty hard.”

Carter was a junior at Ada-Borup High School, where he was a three-sport athlete—played basketball, threw discus and shot put for the track team, and played offensive guard and defensive tackle on the football team. 

“He loved sports. He was a walking encyclopedia when it came to sports,” his father said. “He had one of those infectious smiles and a genuine laugh and chuckle. He was always a happy person.

Carter’s funeral was held at 1 p.m. Friday at Grace Lutheran Church in Ada.

Stensgard suffered injuries that were not life-threatening and reportedly had alcohol in his system.