Remembering Riley: Senior killed in crash known by friends for big personality, infectious smile

GREENFIELD — Surrounded by stoic faces — teammates proud of a win, buddies playing it cool — Riley Settergren always stood out.

That grin. Ear to ear. You never saw him without it.

Settergren’s friends point to those photos, the jokester captured there, and promise to remember that lively spirit they lost.

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Settergren, 17, died Wednesday afternoon in a car crash, days before he would have embarked on his senior year at Eastern Hancock High School.

The pickup he was riding in with two friends struck a large crop sprayer on a rural Hancock County road, not far from the Settergren family farm.

Two other teens in the pickup — R.W. Locker and Landon Stanley, also students at Eastern Hancock — were taken to an Indianapolis hospital and treated for minor injuries. They are expected to fully recover. Joe Mohr, who was driving the farm equipment, was not injured.

“Setty” — as his buddies called him — had a positive energy about him that was infectious, his friends say.

He was always working to make others laugh, always willing to reach out in hopes of brightening a friend’s day. Their fondest memories of him all carry hints of his signature silliness, they say.

For Caleb Giddings, it was the gym class in third grade when Settergren accidentally slapped him while spinning a jump rope through the air. Not to be outdone, Giddings hit Settergren back, and their friendship blossomed from there, he said.

For Wesley Myers, it was the seventh-grade history class where he and Settergren copied answers from one another, then giving the other a good-natured dirty look whenever their wandering eyes landed them with a bad grade.

As word of Settergren’s death spread Wednesday afternoon, the boy’s classmates, his teachers and friends from the close-knit community, flocked to the place that brought so many of them together.

Eastern Hancock High School opened its doors to the grieving, offered dinner and a place for students to tell stories, or just to sit in the quiet together.

It just seemed like the most fitting place for everyone to mourn together, principal Dave Pfaff said, to share memories along with their tears.

They gathered in the gym, talked with counselors, ordered pizza. They stayed until nearly 9 that night, just chatting quietly, slowly coming to terms with what had happened.

Settergren had been a student at Eastern Hancock since his first days in kindergarten, Pfaff said. Late last week, he’d registered for classes.

They all expected to welcome back their unofficial class clown, to start up the year catching up on summer memories.

Next week, the usual first-day-of-school excitement will certainly be dulled by sadness, Pfaff said.

The principal will keep a watchful eye on the students, make sure they’re each doing OK, he said. But nothing will fill the void Settergren left behind.

The teen was everywhere.

Settergren was a member of Eastern’s football and track teams. He picked up wrestling last year because he wanted to try something new, friends said. He had so much spirit for Eastern Hancock. When he wasn’t on the field, on the mat, he could be found in the front row of the stands, cheering on his fellow Royals.

Those were friendships forged both in school and out, fueled by a friendly spirit of competition. Like so many Eastern students, Settergren was a dedicated 4-H’er, spending his summers in the show arena with his sheep and pigs.

He was working toward his 10th year as a 4-H’er.

Settergren was mischievous — but in a good way, said Cassondra Jones, a fellow 4-H’er and classmate.

He was always telling jokes that could make an entire class of students erupt into laughter, she said. And he couldn’t whisper if he tried — everyone always heard what he had to say.

One second he’d be telling a story, the next slipping into a funny voice to deliver the punchline, classmate Savannah Coe added.

Now, it’s hard to picture senior year without him, she said.

“Everywhere he went, he always made people smile,” Coe said.

His smile is what they’ll remember most, they say.

His face shining brightly from within a crowd. His laughter in the hallway or locker room. His voice booming across the gymnasium as he cheered on his friends.

Friends took to social media, posting photos and memories — promising to carry him with them.

“There won’t be a day that goes by,” classmate Payton Wilkinson wrote to the Daily Reporter, “that he won’t cross my mind.”

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.