Firefighter races to fiery car accident, only to discover his son is the victim

Carter A. Peterson

Story highlights

  • Carter Peterson died Sunday night
  • "I dropped to my knees," the firefighter said

(CNN)It's every parent's worst nightmare, but it was even worse for Randy Peterson.

The volunteer firefighter from Ada, Minnesota, was rushing to a fiery car crash and desperately trying to reach his 16-year-old son, Carter. That was Peterson's routine whenever he got called to an emergency and knew one of his children wasn't home.
    Peterson called and called but got no answer.
    When he got to the scene of the crash Sunday night, he knew why.
    "Seeing the car on fire and the rims, I knew," Peterson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I dropped to my knees. I was a mess. Another member of the crew just held me."
    His son Carter, who had dropped off his girlfriend in a nearby town, had been hit by a pickup truck while driving back home to Ada. His car rolled into a ditch and caught fire. He died at the scene.

    No. 63 remembered

    Carter loved sports, so much so that his father called him "a walking encyclopedia" of sports trivia.
    He played several sports at Ada-Borup High School, including football, where he proudly wore the No. 63.
    So Wednesday night, during his football team's last regular season game, he was honored both on and off the field. Players and fans wore his number. Sales of T-shirts and tailgating donations went to his family. Even the opposing team paid tribute with a drum circle and presented Carter's family with wild rice, a Native American symbol of hope.
    After the game's kickoff, Ada-Borup ran the first couple of plays one player short, symbolizing the void Carter's death had left.
    "Football is family basically, especially for Carter, " teammate Tyler Hoven told CNN affiliate WDAY. "He just made everyone family."
    In the aftermath of his son's death, Randy Peterson wants parents to show as much love as they can to their children.
    "Just hug your kids every night, tell them that you love them every day," he told the Grand Forks Herald.