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Coming together in tragedy

Deaths of Maddi Higgins, Hayden Soyk following a car crash touched many in WL


The sun gradually rose above the early morning clouds, imbuing the evergreens in the valley below with a golden hue. More than 100 students from West Linn High School sat on the grassy hill overlooking Camassia Nature Preserve to watch dawn break through the darkness and remember two peers who had just died after a car accident.

“It was peaceful and quiet,” said Lauren Wiest, an incoming WLHS senior.

The deaths of Maddi Higgins, 17, and Hayden Soyk, 18, following the June 8 single-car crash on Petes Mountain Road brought West Linn together as a community with vigils and other gatherings, even drawing home former residents who had left West Linn for work or college.

“It’s comforting knowing that people care and love them,” said Karly LeVeque, a 2012 WLHS graduate and friend of Higgins.

In the days right after the tragedy, many students spent their class periods in the WLHS library. With the support of school administrators and counselors, they tried to make sense of the sudden loss of their friends.

The library has long been considered to be the heart of WLHS. Based on school tradition, the section of the library that is furnished with black leather couches is the territory of the current senior class. Wiest said that this area was opened up for all students as a place to mourn and seek comfort.

“I know — especially in my grade, class of 2015 — we have never been so close,” said Jessica Weinhart, an incoming senior and friend of Higgins. “We just want to be there for each other.”

Friends of Soyk describe him as someone who could make everyone laugh. A gifted athlete, he especially excelled in basketball and skateboarding.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Hayden Soyk, a 2013 graduate of West Linn High School, was remembered as a talented athlete who could always make people laugh. He is shown here working at Island Sam's Pizza in West Linn.

Tanner Alderman, 2013 graduate of WLHS, knew Soyk since the sixth grade. They had a routine: When it was too rainy to skateboard, the pair would go to the covered area at Tanner Creek Park to practice new skateboard tricks. Once the sun went down, they would head back home to play Call of Duty until 4 a.m.

Troy Robinson, a 2013 graduate from Oregon City High School, went to dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings with Soyk two days before the accident.

“That’s what’s weird. I just saw (Hayden),” Robinson said.

Both Alderman and Robinson attended a vigil for Soyk at Island Sam’s Pizza. Nearly 500 people gathered in the parking lot of the restaurant to celebrate Soyk and his life.

“There were people on the ground crying,” Robinson said. “It wasn’t like he was sick and died — he just died.”

A memorial service for Soyk was scheduled for Wednesday at Willamette Park.

Higgins was finishing her junior year at WLHS. Friends said she was full of energy and able to make others laugh.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Maddi Higgins was finishing her junior year at West Linn High School. Friends remember her as being full of energy and having a great sense of humor.

Higgins was the only person LeVeque consistently kept in contact with from West Linn after leaving for college. The last time they saw each other was when LeVeque surprised Higgins at a softball game.

“She was in the middle of the game in center field waiting for the inning to be over to give me a big hug,” LeVeque said. “She was jumping and mouthing the words ‘oh my gosh’ until the inning was over.”

LeVeque wishes she could see her teammate walk at graduation and ask her to be a bridesmaid when her wedding day comes. LeVeque has one older brother, and said Higgins like a sister to her.

“She was my friend and I loved her so much,” LeVeque said.

She finished her final exams at the Oregon Institute of Technology and returned to West Linn to speak at Higgins’ memorial service Saturday.

Prior to the memorial service for Higgins, the WLHS class of 2015 met after the final class bell to walk out of the school together, a demonstration of their family-like closeness. The students and faculty members also wrote notes about Higgins and Soyk and placed them on the hallway railings that surround the entire school library.

“The two kids impacted everyone with their life and with their death,” LeVeque said. “We can all take something away from this and learn something.”

Robinson used to work late and drive home on Mt. Pete’s Road often.

“I used to drive that road stupid every day,” Robinson said. “Now I won’t. I will never speed down that road again.”