3 dead near Michigan country music festival were friends

MICHIGAN CENTER, Mich. (NewsNation Now) — Three young men who likely died from carbon monoxide exposure while…

MICHIGAN CENTER, Mich. (NewsNation Now) — Three young men who likely died from carbon monoxide exposure while camping near a country music festival in Michigan were pals who played high school football together.

They were identified as Dawson Brown, 20, William Mays Jr., 20, who was known as Richie, and Kole Sova, 19, authorities said.

“My heart is breaking for these families and the ones still fighting for their lives,” said Mays’ mother, Amy Satterthwaite, referring to two more friends who were at a hospital.

The deaths Saturday probably were caused by carbon monoxide from a portable generator that was operating too close to their travel trailer, Lenawee County Sheriff Troy Bevier said Monday.

The victims likely were asleep and “never knew what happened,” Bevier told The Associated Press.

The other men, Rayfield Johnson and Kurtis Stitt, both 20, remained in critical condition, he said.

They were at a campground across the road from the Faster Horses Festival, a weekend country music show, at Michigan International Speedway, about 80 miles west of Detroit.

“Our hearts are broken for the families, friends and loved ones,” festival organizers said on Facebook.

Brown, Mays and Sova graduated from Michigan Center High School in Michigan Center, about 60 miles west of Detroit. Brown had a landscape and lawn business.

Michigan Center High School staff are mourning this tragic loss in their community.

“Their character, their integrity, high-quality kids. the epitome of what you want from a student-athlete here at Michigan Center,” said Michigan Center Boys Basketball Coch Travis Gaddy. ” They were very outgoing, full of energy, full of life.”

“They had an impact on everybody. Teachers, other students, different social groups, they had no enemies. Everywhere they went, people were impressed by them,” said Michigan Center School District Superintendent Brady Cook. “It never stopped. They graduated from high school and went on just had dynamism about them that people were attracted to them and wanted to be around them and got better because of them,” he continued.

Lisa Haynes, their middle school teacher and a family friend, said they were all so smart.

“I was so proud of what they were doing and I know their families we’re proud too,” Haynes said.

Jerry and Meeka Sova, left, listen as family and friends gather to remember Kole Sova, Dawson Brown and Richie Mays Jr. at their home near Jackson, Mich., Sunday, July 18, 2021. The three young men, all recent Michigan Center High School graduates, were found dead likely from carbon monoxide exposure in a camper on July 17 at the Faster Horses Festival at Michigan International Speedway. (J. Scott Park/MLive.com/Jackson Citizen Patriot via AP)

That is the legacy these three men left with staff at their former high school. Cook, Haynes, Gaddy, and football coach Troy Allen were devastated when they heard the news.

“Numb, sick, just you never think something like could happen and to know it’s to these three young men is absolutely heartbreaking,” Allen said.

“Just shocked, it just hits you right in the heart as a mom, and I felt like I was a second mom to these boys,” Haynes said.

Allen says he plans to keep their names alive. “I’m going to make sure that every kid, that I coach or kids in school, all want to keep their legacy going to talk about what amazing individuals they were and how they represented this place Michigan Center.”

Mays had talked about selling insurance. Sova worked at the Jiffy Mix plant in Chelsea and had taken college classes.

Classmates, friends and relatives gathered Sunday at Sova’s home to share their sorrow, MLive.com reported.

“They had a good life,” Sova’s father, Jerry Sova, said. “I think it is important to focus on that, too.”

The family of the victims told NewsNation affiliate WLNS a vigil will be held in their honor Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. at Michigan Center High School.

Separately, state police were investigating the death of Melissa Havens, 30, of Croswell, at the festival Saturday. The cause and manner of her death still weren’t publicly disclosed.

The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WLNS contributed to this report.

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