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Goodland Mourns Death of Brook Berringer

April 20, 1996 GMT

GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) _ The family and friends of a local football hero killed in a plane crash are struggling to make sense of the tragedy.

Brook Berringer, 22, the backup quarterback who helped Nebraska win consecutive national titles in 1994 and 1995, was killed Thursday when the small plane he was piloting crashed in a Nebraska farm field.

A passenger, Tobey Lake, 32, who also had played football at Goodland High School, was also killed.

``We just can’t really think right now,″ Judy McClure, Berringer’s aunt, said Friday. ``We are just so shocked to think that he is gone.″

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McClure said flowers, food and sympathetic wishes poured in to the Berringer home in Goodland on Friday. She said the family was in shock.

So was the town.

``We’ve had kind of a pretty tough day,″ said Harvey Swager, principal of the 375-student Goodland High, where Berringer graduated in 1991.

Berringer’s former classmates organized a candlelight vigil Friday night. About 750 people attended and several spoke about the two victims, offering memories and condolences.

Lake’s high school football coach from 1982, Don Smith, said: ``Tobey and Brook were dream-makers because they allowed others to dream about being like them.″

Berringer’s football coach at Goodland High, Mike Johnson, recalled that ``Brook was who you saw,″ an unassuming, modest and friendly person.

``They all loved him,″ Berringer’s aunt told The Associated Press from her home. ``Even if he hadn’t been a football hero, he was still a good kid.″

``I thought it would be very special for our community to just be together for the families and for everyone,″ said Lisa Sapp, a former classmate who organized the vigil.

A classmate of Berringer’s from fourth through eighth grade, Sapp said she got the idea from similar vigils held for the bombing victims in Oklahoma City.

High school students wore red-and-white ribbons to remember Berringer.

On the field where Berringer played football in high school, students laid out roses to form an ``18,″ the number Berringer wore at Nebraska. Roses also formed a ``99,″ the number Lake wore at Goodland High.

Lake, also a licensed pilot, managed an interior finishing business in Denver. His sister, Tiffini, dated Berringer.

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``We had a lot of kids at one time out on the football field that were just (consoling) each other,″ Swager said.

Flags flew at half staff around the school and counselors and ministers converged on the school from several places in western Kansas.

Elementary school students spent part of the day writing down their memories of Berringer, which were to be compiled and given to Berringer’s mother, Swager said.

``This is a big loss for the whole community,″ said Robert Rodriguez, president of the student council at Goodland High School. ``As a football player, I feel a certain added loss because he was part of a family. He was a Cowboy football player.″