West Platte HS community mourns loss of popular football coach killed in violent I-29 crash

WESTON, Mo. -- There's an air of disbelief at one high school in the metro.

The community around West Platte High School is mourning the loss of popular football coach Nathan Danneman, 37, who was killed in a violent car crash on Wednesday evening. That leaves families around the school grieving his death.

The loss began sinking in on Thursday evening. West Platte High School students and their families assembled at the school's football stadium for a prayer vigil, which was organized by the high school's chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Danneman had been the school's football and wrestling coach for four years, and he'd spent three seasons in the same roles at Drexel High School, which is based in Cass County, Missouri.

On Thursday night, that prayer vigil packed the stadium to capacity, as families and teachers came to comfort one another on the football turf, where Danneman had coached. Many carried candles, and formed a large circle, praying for comfort, and support for Danneman's wife and two surviving children, one of whom survived Wednesday's crash.

The Missouri Highway Patrol says a tractor-trailer crossed the median on I-29, and struck three oncoming cars, including Danneman's sedan. Danneman died as a result of his injuries. His three-year old daughter was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital.

Tom Carson, whose son plays as a wide receiver on Danneman's Blue Jay football team, was one of many mourners in attendance at Thursday's vigil. Carson says earlier this year, his own son was in a car crash as well, and Coach Danneman was the first person to reach the scene of the accident. Carson, who was living out of the area at the time, says the coach rode in the ambulance to the hospital with his son, who is now doing much better.

"When I first moved back here, I finally talked to Coach Danneman and told him how grateful I was for him for doing that, and being there for my son. I'll always be grateful for that," Carson said.

"In my opinion, he treated them all like they were his own children," Jennifer Rainey, mother of five West Platte students, told FOX 4 News. "He cared for them. My five, I can speak for them for sure, but all of them. He really went above and beyond coach."

"He just loved everybody. Everybody loved him," Sherry Morris, mother of two West Platte High School students, said. "It's terrible seeing all the kids grieve. There's just no words. No words."

Funeral arrangement for Danneman are still being finalized