‘Sure miss these kids’

School bus crash victims remembered by extended family, football coach

File photo A stainless steel cross with the names of the four children who were killed in the Lakeview bus crash 10 years sits near the intersection where it happened that cold, windy day.

COTTONWOOD — Jesse Javens could have been a truck driver, traveling in an 18-wheeler cross country.

That’s what his former Sunday school teacher and his junior high football coach believe, but they will never know for sure. Javens died Feb. 19, 2008, in a fatal bus crash that rocked the Lakeview School District and surrounding communities.

The 13-year-old Javens died along with his brother Hunter, 9, Emilee Olson, 9, and Reed Stevens, 12.

“I sure miss these kids, and a day does not go by that I don’t think of them,” Raymond Pederson said. He is the “Spirit Coach” for Lakeview football.

The Independent did reach out to the three families whose children died that day. Ultimately, they didn’t feel comfortable speaking at this time. At least one parent was willing to share experiences with the Journey of Hope in a story that will run in the Independent later this week.

So the Independent reached out to others who knew the youths.

“I miss seeing each of these kids,” said Carolyn Olson, who is the Sunday school teacher. She is married to Jonathan Olson, cousin to Charlie Olson, Emilee’s father.

“While I may not have known all of them the way I knew Emilee, they all had an impact on me and my family. I am thankful for them, and for their families.” 

Olson also speculated about Stevens.

“I believe Reed would’ve chosen to study a science-related field, either medicine or engineering,” she said.

Pederson shared more memories from his time with the four students lost in the fateful bus crash 10 years ago.

“I could see Jesse driving 18-wheelers or maybe mechanical or machine work. I think Reed was on his way to becoming a doctor or a minister,” Pederson said.

“I do remember Emilee being very active with riding horses on her farm,” he said. “I used to go out to her farm to buy farm fresh eggs.”

Olson also shared more thoughts on Emilee.

“I would think Emilee would be going to college for music, or an equine-related field. She was also very compassionate, so whatever she chose to do, there would be some element that would help others,” she said

Pederson said he didn’t know Hunter Javens or Emilee Olson very well.

Pederson was Jesse Javens’ and Reed Stevens’ junior high football coach.

“I have coached for 28 years and counseling Jesse and Reed’s teammates was the toughest thing I have ever had to do in coaching,” Pederson said.

Stevens played left guard and defensive tackle, Pederson said. Javens played outside linebacker and fullback.

“I met them when they were in the fourth or fifth grade playing flag football,” Pederson said. “Basically I watched them on the football field. Jesse and Reed loved playing football. Jesse and Reed both went home to teach their younger brothers what they had learned at football practice. I met Hunter when he came to the practice field on occasion.”

Pederson recalls Jesse Javens as being quiet, but when asked where he would like to play, Jesse Javens said defense. So he became an outside linebacker. 

“For his age, he was very strong and had a lot of natural ability, as did Reed,” Pederson said. “Both he and Reed were very coachable players.”

“Reed asked if he could go hunting geese with me, and we did go out hunting geese. We didn’t get any that day, but did Reed ever have questions. He wanted to learn all about the sport,” Pederson said.

He said service veterans were very important to Reed as was his faith. 

“He asked me questions all the time about whatever was on his mind,” Pederson said.

Another memory of Jesse Javens, Pederson said, was his playing football at the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Junior High Jamboree. 

“I put him in at fullback and called a fullback dive play. Jesse hit the line hard and was stopped about a yard short and he pushed three or four opponent players into the end zone,” Pederson said.

Carolyn Olson said family played a big part in the Javens kids’ lives.

“The love that both Hunter and Jesse had for their family was sweet. They looked out for each other and cared for their sister as well,” she said. “When I would see both Hunter and Jesse in Sunday school, they were on the quiet side. They were always respectful.” 

As Emilee Olson’s godmother, Carolyn Olson had many opportunities to spend time with the active young girl. Family events, 4-H events, horse shows, church, Sunday School, and school activities were all places she would see her.

“I knew Emilee since she was about 10 months old, after she was adopted by Charlie and Traci,” she said.

“I had the opportunity to watch Emilee one morning a week not long after her adoption. Watching her grow, and embrace life was a joy. Her laugh was deep and hearty, and when I think of it, I can still hear it — and I miss it. Emilee was always smiling. She loved music, and was becoming quite good at playing piano. Our girls loved to hang out with her, at whatever event we all were at. She was a ray of sunshine.”

Carolyn Olson spent time with Reed Stevens as well. 

“Reed went on a 4-H Interstate Exchange trip to Kansas when I was a chaperone,” Carolyn Olson said. “We went to a space museum, and he was so excited about the displays there. Reed was always inquisitive, and seemed to enjoy learning. He was generally positive, and pleasant to be around. It was fun to watch.” 

“They all came from wonderful homes,” Pederson said.