Suddenly Gone: UW, City And Childhood Coaches Mourn Swimmers After Fatal Crash

The childhood coaches of the three University of Wyoming swimmers who died Thursday in a one-vehicle crash told Cowboy State Daily about their lives and reflected on their deaths with shock, grief and tenderness. It's shared by the greater UW and Laramie community.

Clair McFarland & Greg Johnson

February 23, 202411 min read

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The childhood swimming coaches of three University of Wyoming swimmers who died Thursday in a one-vehicle crash reacted with shock, grief and tenderness.

Carson Muir, 18, was a freshman and an animal and veterinary sciences major from Birmingham, Alabama. Luke Slabber, 21, was a junior studying construction management, from Cape Town, South Africa. And Charlie Clark, 19, was a sophomore and psychology major, from Las Vegas, Nevada.

‘I Will Miss Her Dearly’

Muir’s swim club coach said the girl was a joy to those around her, and the kind of student a coach doesn’t forget.

“Some swimmers you know that you’ll be their ‘coach’ for the rest of their lives because of the time spent with and invested in each other – it’s a two-way street,” Dan Rozick, Birmingham Swim League head coach, told Cowboy State Daily in a Friday email.

“Carson was absolutely one of those who made the investments and was easy to invest in. She was a joy to be around and to coach," Rozick said.

When other swimmers were moping around the pool because the workout was hard, Muir “was doing a dance on the deck just because it made her happy and made her teammates smile,” said Rozick.

He said she made the people around her better – not just her teammates, but her classmates and coaches also.

“It is devastating to know I won’t get to see her giant smile or hear her infectious laugh on my pool deck again,” Rozick said. “I wont get to hear her – infuriatingly – ‘Coach Dan… never mind,’ as she answered her own question just as soon as she was about to ask it.”

Rozick added, “I will miss her dearly.”

The Birmingham Swim League in its own, official statement said the group feels her loss profoundly, and that she was the greatest representation the group could have asked for. The club extended its thoughts and prayers to Muir’s family, “who have given more to this swim program than any team deserves.”

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Anyone Who Has A Son Or Daughter

Gary Bonney, manager and coach for Vineyard Swimming Club, of Cape Town, South Africa, said Luke Slabber started swimming for the club at age 6.

Bonney spoke with Cowboy State Daily about one hour after speaking with Slabber’s father about the loss, Bonney said.

“It is absolutely tragic for any person – for anyone, including his teammates – but I think anyone who has a son or daughter can identify with the kind of pain the parents would feel,” said Bonney.

Slabber had a “fantastic career” with Vineyard Swimming Club, reaching its highest levels. The group was glad for him and hoped his career in America would open fine opportunities for him, Bonney said.

“Absolute loss. Complete loss of young life and potential,” Bonney continued.

He said there were about seven South African swimmers whom Slabber knew back home, who came to different colleges in the United States around the same time he did. And they remained a tightknit group, eager to reunite at conference and other events.

“And our hearts and thoughts go out to his parents – and colleagues,” he said. “The swimming community is unbelievable, how it rallies around.”

‘Always A Light’

Mike Polk, the head coach of Charlie Clark’s longtime swim club, Boulder City Henderson Swim team in Southern Nevada, said he and the club are still trying to process the sudden loss. Clark was a large part of the program for the last several years, Polk said in a Friday email to Cowboy State Daily.

“Charlie was such a great athlete and person. He was one of our team leaders not only through his work ethic and performance in the pool but as a genuine, caring member of his peer group,” said Polk. He said Clark put “all of himself” into what he did.

“As I have struggled to deal with this tragic loss throughout this day, one thing that has become clear to me is how proud I am to have been part of the life and growth of this young man,” Polk said.

Clark’s name has surfaced in Boulder City rankings since he was 13. He also attended Silverado High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was ranked first in the 2020-2021 season.

“Charlie was always a light and had a smile every time I passed him on deck at meets,” wrote one woman in a comment under the club’s public announcement of the crash. “My thoughts and prayers personally are with his family and friends.”

On The Campus

On the campus Friday morning, the bustle of bodies making their way deliberately between classes seems like any other Friday at a major American university.

But there’s also an underlying uneasiness, eyes a little wider in disbelief and grief for the families and swimming program.

“Man, this is just horrible,” said Trey Zimmer, originally from Ohio who’s been working at UW for about a year. 

Waking up to the news of the crash and the toll it took on the UW community, Zimmer said even though he doesn’t know them personally, he feels a sense of loss all the same.

“They’re just 18, 19, 20 years old or something like that, just so young. It’s terrible,” he said, adding he experienced another chill learning the crash happened on Highway 287.

“We all drive that road at some point,” Zimmer said. “I’ve had to take it at night, and it’s nerve-wracking no matter if it’s winter or 75 degrees out. It can be scary. I don’t think there’s a good time to drive that road.”

Zimmer was part of the lunch rush at the always-busy Turtle Rock Coffee Co. at the corner of 9th and Clark streets just off campus. It’s a favorite breakfast and lunch stop for UW students and faculty, and was no less busy Friday.

Olivia Reifon and Cade Olson are both UW students who said they were still feeling a bit shocked and out of sorts waking up to the news of the crash. 

“Oh man, you can’t really believe it,” said Olson, originally from Gillette. “I just feel bad for their teammates and friends and families. I first saw it on the school email they sent out.”

Although there are thousands of students at UW, like Wyoming, the university community is also tight-knit, Olson said.

“It’s kind of a small school that way,” he said. “I’ve got a couple buddies who are on the swim team, so I can’t imagine what they’re going through.”

Olson, attending UW from her home in Evanston, had her emotion and empathy all over her face. 

“The first thing I think of is they were so young,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “If you don’t know someone (directly) you probably know somebody who knows them.”

Although business was brisk as usual Friday, Turtle Creek worker Bee Schmidt said it was obvious the tragedy was the dominating topic of conversation. 

“I woke up this morning and saw (the news), but it’s been so busy it’s been hard to really think about it,” Schmidt said. “But it’s just terrible. I’m not a student, but I know some people on the (swim) team.”

Can Feel It From 20 Years Ago

Nathan McLeland, Gillette City Councilman, is also the brother of the late Morgan McLeland, one of eight cross-country runners killed by a drunk driver on Sept. 16, 2001.

That tragedy also happened on Highway 287.

Morgan was 20 when he died. He’d be 44 now if he hadn’t.

Thursday’s loss resonates with McClelland.

“It’s just so terrible,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “The first thing you think about is your heart just goes out to those families.”

It was a Sunday when Morgan died. Nathan had graduated by then, but had competed with some of the teammates who died. Being on a team that close is like having extra brothers and sisters, he added.

“It was more than a shock. You can’t imagine it, but it happened,” he said. “The families are grieving, the team is grieving, and it just hits that hard. It’s like losing multiple family members.”

Laramie Grieves With UW

Although the university and city of Laramie govern themselves separately, all of Laramie is grieving the loss, said Mayor Brian Harrington.

Because he takes care of his kids in the morning, Harrington often unplugs, so he didn’t learn of the crash until Cowboy State Daily reached out for a reaction.

“I heard the news when I got a voicemail from you, because I try to not spend a lot of time on my phone and stuff when I have my kids,” he said, adding it was devastating to learn about.

“It’s heartbreaking. Those tragedies are hard to hang onto,” he said. “Any member of the U-Dub community is also a resident of Laramie and I think we’re going be grieving together.”

What happens in Laramie is not too far removed from folks statewide, es

He said there are no words he can say that would seem adequate in the face of such a profound loss.

“It’s hard to come up with words in these moments. I find myself at a bit of a loss,” Harrington said. “My heart’s broken. I can’t imagine. I was taking care of my daughters this morning, and I can’t imagine what their families are going through. My heart breaks for the swim program, their teammates, coaches and the greater city community.”

Although the university and city don’t always see eye-to-eye on some issues or policies, they’re part of the same larger community, the mayor said.

“We’re always there for each other,” he said. “We’re still neighbors. Largely everybody working and going to school at UW is a Laramie resident. Anything the university needs, we’re there for them, and I know they’d do the same for us.”

Thursday Afternoon

Clark, Muir and Slabber – along with two more teammates who were injured in the crash – were heading south near Red Mountain Road in Larimer County, Colorado, in a Toyota RAV4, when the RAV4 drove off the road and rolled over, CBS news reported.

UW said initial indications are the driver swerved and the vehicle went off the road, rolling multiple times.

Authorities said the group was not traveling to an official school or athletic function at the time. The crash is under investigation. Both directions of the highway were closed for most of Thursday afternoon, according to CBS News.

Wyoming’s governor, House Speaker and others extended their condolences Thursday evening. UW President Ed Seidel dispatched a statement of condolences Friday and urged the community to come together in kindness.

‘Ready To Work With Families’

The Albany County delegates to the Wyoming Legislature said in a Friday statement they are “shocked and saddened at the news of this terrible loss.”

UW sits within Albany County, in the town of Laramie. It’s the state’s only university.

“Our student-athletes are a source of pride for our community and state,” the delegates said. “Your Albany County delegation stands ready to work with the families and university faculty, staff and students impacted by this tragedy to provide resources for healing.”

Those delegates are Reps. Ocean Andrew, Ken Chestek, Karlee Provenza and Trey Sherwood, and Sens. Chris Rothfuss and Dan Furphy.

Both the Wyoming House of Representatives and Senate paused Friday for a moment of silence to honor the students killed and pray for those who were injured, says the statement.

The delegates encouraged those in need of support to contact the University Counseling Center at (307) 766-2187 or after-hours crisis counselor at (307) 766-8989.

UW employees may seek assistance through the Employee Assistance Program by calling 1-800-873-7138.

Greg Johnson contributed to this report.

Clair McFarland can be reached at and Greg Johnson can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter


Greg Johnson

Managing Editor

Veteran Wyoming journalist Greg Johnson is managing editor for Cowboy State Daily.