The community at Odyssey Academy in Brooklyn Center is mourning the loss of two students who died after an early morning accident Nov. 21 in St. Louis Park.
Five-year-old Zenavia Rennie and seven-year-old Alarious Coleman-Guerrido died due to complications of drowning after the accident, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner. Zarihana Rennie, 6, Amani Coleman-Guerrido, 5, and Aliyana Rennie, 1, suffered serious injuries in the accident.
Marion Guerrido, 23, of Brooklyn Center, was driving with the five children on the way to her mother’s house to get them ready for school when she veered off westbound Highway 7 on an entrance ramp to northbound Highway 100. The vehicle then slid into a deep, icy holding pond.
Guerrido was able to escape from the 1998 four-door Pontiac Grand Am and was not injured. The five children were trapped in the car, which was submerged in the holding pond. Firefighters and paramedics rescued all five of the children from the car within 20 minutes.
Three of the children in the car, Aliyana Rennie, Amani Coleman-Guerrido and Alarious Coleman-Guerrido, are those of Marion Guerrido, according to records of the accident from the Minnesota State Patrol.
Zenavia Rennie was in kindergarten at Odyssey Academy and Alarious Coleman-Guerrido was in second grade. Amani Coleman-Guerrido is in kindergarten and Zarihana Rennie is in first grade at the school.
Amani and Zarihana remain in the hospital but their conditions are slowly improving, according to Kirsten Erickson from Odyssey Academy.
“It’s devastating to us,” said Odyssey Academy Executive Director John Sedey. “As much as you plan for crisis … it’s not like a fire drill, you can’t prepare for things like this. I’ve just never experienced anything this tragic.”
Counselors were available for staff and students after the accident last week, and teachers received resources about how to talk with students about the tragedy, Sedey said.
Classmates of the children in the accident made signs and placed cards in the hallways and on their lockers.
“I think it’s a good exercise to help them with the grief they’re dealing with,” Sedey said.
Teachers of the four students gathered to talk about them before Thanksgiving break last week.
Robbyn Engelhardt, Zenavia Rennie’s kindergarten teacher, said she remembers the girl for her fun and energetic personality.
“She was really playful and a really good friend to all the students in our class,” Engelhardt said.
Alarious Coleman-Guerrido’s teacher was not available for comment last week. Odyssey Dean of Students Geoffrey Reed said Alarious was a leader in the school.
“I could always count on him to be a leader. He was very quiet and led by example a lot. He practiced our values here at our school all the time,” Reed said.
Ryan Parker, a first grade teacher with Zarihana Rennie in his class for just a few weeks, said she is an eager student ready to do everything she needs to in class.
Engelhardt, who taught Zarihana in kindergarten, said she was always excited to be at school during her first year at Odyssey Academy.
Laura Montray is Amani Coleman-Guerrido’s kindergarten teacher.
“He got along really well with the other kids and all the kids really like him,” Montray said. “He was always really responsible and does an excellent job.”
The memorials and cards of support for the students in the accident are helpful for their classmates to cope, according to Montray.
“I think it just makes them feel like they’ve got a part in the healing of these families,” she said.
Engelhardt, Zenavia’s teacher, added, “I think it just helps them realize she might be gone but they don’t have to forget her. They’ll remember her (and) that she’ll always be part of their lives.”
Staff at Odyssey Academy sent a letter about the accident home with students to show their families on Nov. 22.
Sedey said the staff is working with the Academy’s bank to set up a donation fund, and that they will provide additional information to the community about how to help.
There is also a fund to help the family pay for medical and funeral expenses available through giveforward.com by searching for the Coleman-Guerrido Rennie Children’s Fund.
A press conference about the accident was held Nov. 22 at the St. Louis Park Police Station.
Rick Petry, an attorney who said he is a friend of the Guerrido family, said the driver, Marion Guerrido is, “completely overwhelmed but dealing with this as best she can.”
Petry also read a statement from the family thanking all the law enforcement personnel and the outpouring of support they have received from others.
“Your prayers and kindness have kept us going,” Petry said, reading the statement. “Words cannot express our grief at the loss of our children. This has been our worst nightmare.”
Petry could not be reached for additional comment last week.
The Minnesota State Patrol continues to investigate the accident, said Lt. Eric Roeske. He said Nov. 22 that Guerrido was driving without a valid driver’s license. Charges have not been filed against Guerrido at this time, he said. Information about the accident will be sent to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for review when the State Patrol investigation is complete, Roeske said.
Odyssey Academy students were only in school Monday and Tuesday last week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Staff worked last Wednesday and discussed how to go forward with helping their students cope and have some normalcy too, Sedey said.
“We don’t want to dwell on things but we need to be responsive to their individual and group needs,” Sedey said.
Most of all, everyone is remembering the students who are recovering, and Alarious and Zenavia.
“They were such a sweet family,” Engelhardt said. “I think everyone will just remember the impact they made on everyone in school.”
Contact Katy Zillmer at email@example.com. Sue Webber contributed to this story.