Community rallies behind crash victim’s family

Published 12:43 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Area community members are rallying around the family whose child died Monday afternoon in a crash on Minnesota Highway 13 south of Manchester.

A GoFundMe account was set up Tuesday for the family of Grace Zimmerman and as of press time had raised $8,600. Another website was set up to help the family with meals in the coming days.

“Grace was such a bright light and always shined for everyone to see,” organizer Colleen Peterson wrote on the GoFundMe page. “If you knew her, you were blessed because she had the type of joy that would make anyone feel like they were completely loved and seen.”

Grace Zimmerman is the daughter of Torrey and Clare Zimmerman. Torrey Zimmerman is serving as the interim executive director of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.

According to the Minnesota State Patrol, Zimmerman, 16, was driving east on Freeborn County Road 14 when her vehicle collided with a 2020 Peterbuilt tractor, driven by Daniel Joseph Petracek, 57, of Waseca, traveling north on Highway 13. The road was wet at the time of the crash, and snow was falling in the area.

The girl was a sophomore at Albert Lea High School and was a part of the Albert Lea dance team.

Student school board member Aaron Farris said during the school board meeting Tuesday evening that a prayer circle was held in front of the Tiger statue inside the school earlier that morning for students and noted the whole school is “very upset about it.”

Albert Lea Area Schools Superintendent Mike Funk commended teaching staff and local clergy for their support of students and said they will be working with students as needed moving forward. He encouraged parents who are questioning how to help their children with the loss to contact the school for additional support.

“We grieve the unexpected loss of this young life, and we will keep her family in our thoughts at this incredibly difficult time,” a statement reads on the Albert Lea School District website.

The statement said the high school staff have implemented a plan for responding to the tragedy focused on helping students and their families get back to regular learning and everyday learning as soon as possible. There will be district personnel available to students who need special attention and support.

Students or families who may need assistance are asked to contact the school at 507-379-5340.