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Small town grieves loss of teenager from accident

4/18/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

A small community that has celebrated many good times together also sticks together in tough times.

Residents of Kensington and the surrounding area will gather in the high school gymnasium Saturday to celebrate the life of one of their own.

Riley Reneberg, a 16-year-old sophomore at Thunder Ridge High School in Kensington, died as the result of injuries suffered in a one-vehicle accident after school Monday.

Three of his classmates also were injured in the accident that shook the small northwest Kansas town of 475. Riley, as well as Logan Miller and Michael Wagenblast, were passengers in a pickup driven by Ethan Sarr on a county road north of town when Sarr lost control when the passenger side tires entered the ditch. The pickup rolled several times, ejecting all four, according to a report by the Kansas Highway Patrol.

"It's a very close community," Thunder Ridge football coach Jerry Voorhies said. "It's a great community that follows the kids, gives them a lot of support. It's a small town; everybody knows everybody."

Voorhies, who grew up in nearby Smith Center, knows the Reneberg family well. Riley's father, James, went to school in Kensington, and those two towns combined to play summer baseball together.

In addition, Riley has relatives working at the high school, and his younger brother, Riggs, is a student in the elementary school.

One of the churches in Kensington, St. John Lutheran Church, has stayed open all day and overnight since the accident for students to gather together.

Riley's funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday in the Thunder Ridge gym. His obituary appears on page A6.

Riley was a member of the school's state championship football team in Eight Man, Division II his freshman year but wasn't able to participate his sophomore year because of surgery during the summer. However, Voorhies said Riley still stayed close to the team last fall, serving as the Longhorns' manager.

"Great kid, great family," Voorhies said. "Everybody knows all these kids. It's going to be tough for a while."