ORONO, Minn. -- It was quiet on the south side of North Shore Drive, named for its proximity to the north shore of Lake Minnetonka. On Monday afternoon the only sounds came from cars passing by on the road, and from a group of friends huddled around two white crosses placed just off the road, where a tragedy happened on Saturday night.
Sam Schuneman, 24, died at the scene. His friend Mack Motzko, 20, was transported to North Memorial Medical Center, where he later died. The accident happened when a high-end car driven by James Blue, 51, went off the road at a high rate of speed and struck a group of trees.
A group of six young men was gathered at the site, which included a picture of Schuneman, a few golf balls, a few hockey pucks, flowers, a poker chip and other memories from two lives snuffed out way too soon. There was no clear connection between the group. They hadn’t gone to the same high school or college. They didn’t play the same sports. They were just friends with Schuneman.
“Sam had the energy to bring all of us together, and he was the glue that kept all of our friendships together,” said Rashed Elbaba, who met Schuneman when they both attended Minnesota State University in Mankato. “It was always a good time knowing he was in town because he could bring all the guys together, no matter where he went.”
Originally from the Twin Cities, Schuneman had moved to the Phoenix area two years previously but came home often and was in Minnesota visiting friends this month. He was scheduled to fly back to Phoenix on Friday, but moved the return flight to Sunday morning to spend another day with friends.
Per a Schuneman friend who did not want to be named, a group of them were attending a party at Blue’s house, a few doors down from the crash site, on Saturday night. Blue offered Schuneman and Motzko a ride in his Bentley, and crashed on the return trip. Orono police, in a press release, said it appears that alcohol and a high rate of speed contributed to the crash. Blue was critically injured, according to the police, and transported to North Memorial as well.
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Motzko, the oldest son of Minnesota Gophers hockey coach Bob Motzko, had split time in junior hockey between teams in South Dakota and New Mexico last winter. He had plans to play for a team in British Columbia in the coming season.
While friends said Schuneman was primarily a backyard pond hockey player, his father, Tom, is the chair of the Minnesota Special Hockey Board, which promotes the sport for people with special needs.
“I was with his dad yesterday, and his dad said it best. ‘Sam was always the happiest when he was with his friends.’ And that just hit home for me,” said Alex Orn, who began to say more, then broke down and had to be consoled by friends.
Mack Motzko and Sam Schuneman reportedly became friends when Schuneman started dating Ella Motzko, Mack’s older sister. Most of Schuneman’s friends gathered at the memorial said they knew the Motzko family through Ella.
“We never really got the opportunity to meet Mack. I wish we did,” said Blake Neumann. “He seemed like a really, really great kid with a bright future ahead of him. My heart’s out to the Motzko family. I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”
By Monday afternoon, the largest tree had been removed, but evidence of the crash remained, including yellow spray paint marking the tire tracks, showing where the car left the pavement, at a slight left bend in the road. A scarred tree at the site still had a piece of chrome from the car embedded in its trunk.
An Orono police spokesperson said the investigation is on-going and may take months to complete.