The Arneson children are shown on a beautiful fall day. From left are Avery, Jack, Alexander, James and Aiden. They are the children of RaeAnn and Earl Arneson of Highlandbville, Iowa. They were all involved in a car accident on Monday that claimed the lives of Avery and Aiden and injured the boys.
The Arneson children are shown on a beautiful fall day. From left are Avery, Jack, Alexander, James and Aiden. They are the children of RaeAnn and Earl Arneson of Highlandbville, Iowa. They were all involved in a car accident on Monday that claimed the lives of Avery and Aiden and injured the boys.
Monday morning began like every other new week, with parents getting ready for work, children getting ready for school and teachers finalizing lesson plans for the day to come. But, for the Mabel-Canton community, normalcy ended at 7:51 a.m. when a two-vehicle crash near Hesper took the lives of two of its students, 17-year-old and Mabel-Canton senior Avery Arneson and her 13-year-old sister, Aiden Arneson, a seventh grade student. Four other youth were hospitalized, including the driver of the second vehicle.

According to the Iowa State Patrol, the accident occurred on County Road W40 in Winneshiek County, near Hesper. The car driven by Avery was traveling north, as she was on her way to school at Mabel-Canton. She lost control of her car, which crossed the center line and slid sideways. A truck, driven by 15-year-old Gage Dahlberg, collided with the passenger side of the Arneson vehicle as he was traveling south.

Avery and Aiden Arneson died at the scene while three other passengers in their car were injured. Siblings Alexander and James, both 14, and 15-year-old Jack Arneson were all injured. All are the children of RaeAnn and Earl Arneson of Highlandville, Iowa.

Alexander was airlifted to Gundersen Hospital in La Crosse while the others were taken to Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah.

The accident report shows that the roads were snowy at the time of the accident.

Mabel-Canton cancelled all of its after-school activities on Monday and staff and clergy were available for counseling if students needed.

 Superintendent Gary Kuphal posted a statement on the district's website on Monday, which read, "The staff at Mabel-Canton Schools, along with area clergy, were available for students today and will continue to be available. As a general rule, routine is good for our children, please encourage your children to come to school to be with and support their friends."

A community service of prayer was scheduled to be held on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. to show love and support for those grieving the loss of the Arneson daughters and pray for healing for the sons who are still recovering.

Bryce Muenchow, a former youth director at Big Canoe Lutheran Church in Decorah, wrote on social media that he had the privilege of getting to know the Arnesons during his work at the church. He especially got to know Avery as she was a student in his confirmation class.

“Avery was (it pains me to write this in past tense) a bright, bright light: her smile, her goofiness, her energy, her zeal, the way she attacked life with vigor,” he wrote. “I had a playful connection with Avery, often teasing her good naturedly. I knew she could handle it because she had no problem dishing it back to me.”

Though Muenchow admitted that he did not have the opportunity to form the same bond with Aiden, he realized that she shared many of the same amazing qualities with her sister. “They truly were ‘cut from the same cloth’ – a testament to their upbringing by their wonderful parents. Aiden brightened any room she was in,” he wrote.

Avery was active in several activities at Mabel-Canton, including softball and basketball, FFA and choir. She was a member of this year’s homecoming court and was the 2016 Steam Engine Days queen. She also worked at Green Lea Manor.

Aiden was a member of the volleyball and basketball team and played in the Mabel-Canton band.

Both were involved in 4-H with other members of their family.

The devastating loss of these two young women has extended beyond friends and family, but to school personnel and community members as well.

Heather Kleiboer, a secretary at Mabel-Canton, summed it up by saying, “I feel like all the students who go through Mabel-Canton are ‘my kids.’ I'm not sure how many I've had over the years, but they are not lost to us as staff, even after they graduate. I know that everyone here would agree on that statement. We love our kids. It hurts to lose them.”

If one would like to do something to help the Arneson family, a GoFundMe page has been created to help with funeral and medical expenses. One may go to https://www.gofundme.com/arneson-family-fund to make a donation.