3 dead, 2 hospitalized after camping near Michigan country music festival honored in vigil

Mark Hicks
Associated Press

 Brooklyn — Hundreds gathered Monday to honor three young men who are believed to have died from carbon monoxide exposure while camping near a country music festival in Michigan last weekend.

They were identified as Dawson Brown, 20, of Michigan Center in Jackson County; William Mays II, 20, of Jackson; and Kole Sova, 19, of Jackson, according to Lenawee County Sheriff Troy Beveier.

The men were pals who played high school football together, friends and family said.

Surviving victims in critical condition have been identified as Rayfield Johnson, 20, of Jackson and Kurtis Stitt, 20, of Hesperia.

“My heart is breaking for these families and the ones still fighting for their lives,” said Mays' mother, Amy Satterthwaite.

A candlelight vigil was held Monday night at Michigan Center High School in Michigan Center, where Brown, Mays and Sova graduated.

Tearful students, friends and residents joined in prayers and "Amazing Grace" on a field. 

Through tears, high school principal Lisa Falasco said the gathering was to help the survivors to heal and to "celebrate our sweet boys who left too soon."

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe campaign aims to raise $20,000 for medical expenses and future scholarships.

"Michigan Center Athletic Boosters is organizing donations for the four Michigan Center families: Dawson, Kole, Richie and Rayfield," the fundraising post said. "The boosters will evenly divide all proceeds amongst the four MC families. Funds will be used towards medical expenses for Rayfield and future scholarships in honor of Dawson, Kole and Richie.

"We would like to acknowledge and send our support to the family of Kurtis Stitt; their wishes are for the funds to stay in the Michigan Center community and the affected MC families," the post said. "We ask for continued thoughts and prayers for Kurtis as he fights his battle. Our community stands with you."

After reading from the Bible's Book of Psalms, Ryan Prondzinski, pastor at Christ Lutheran Church in Michigan Center, told the tearful crowd: "I stand with you."

Before a moment of silence for each of the men, another pastor described the three as "very special boys. ... They will never be forgotten."

Autopsies were planned, but police said the deaths Saturday probably were caused by carbon monoxide from a generator that was too close to their travel trailer. The five were at a campground while attending the Faster Horses Festival at Michigan International Speedway.

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

Separately, state police were investigating the death of Melissa Havens, a 30-year-old woman from Croswell, at the festival. The cause and manner of her death was unknown, but police had said there was no danger to people at the three-day festival, which ended Sunday.

In a statement posted Monday on Facebook and Twitter, festival officials said they were "deeply saddened by the tragic losses this weekend."

"We will continue to stay in close contact with the Lenawee County Sheriff and all other law enforcement agencies, and follow their lead regarding any and all information as it is officially confirmed," the post said. "Our hearts are broken for the families, friends and loved ones."

The Associated Press contributed.