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WARREN, Ohio — Investigators Monday tried to piece together what eight teenagers crammed into an allegedly stolen SUV were up to before the vehicle flipped over into a pond, killing six of them.
Authorities gave few details on where the group of friends had been and why they were out around daybreak Sunday, speeding down a two-lane road. On Monday, the SUV’s owner met with police and filed a stolen-car report; police said none of the teens was related to the owner or had asked to use the vehicle.
While the father of one of the dead said the teenagers were coming home from a sleepover at a friend’s house, the mother of another boy killed said that her son and his best friend had lied about staying over at each other’s homes that evening. She said she thinks they went to a party.
“If only he had listened,” said Lisa Williamson, mother of 14-year-old Brandon Murray. “I told him, ‘Don’t you go nowhere.’ But they’re kids.”
The SUV hit a guardrail in an industrial section of town and landed upside down in about 5 feet of water, filling up within minutes, Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt said. Five boys and a young woman were killed.
Two boys smashed a rear window, wriggled out of the wreckage and swam away, then ran a quarter-mile to a home to call 911, authorities said. Brian Henry, 18, and Asher Lewis, 15, suffered only minor injuries.
Investigators said they believe excessive speed was a key factor in the crash, which took place in a 35 mph zone alongside a steel mill near what’s known in the neighborhood as “Dead Man’s Curve.” Authorities did not say how fast the SUV was going. They were also awaiting the results of drug and alcohol tests.
All eight teenagers were from Warren, a mostly blue-collar city of 41,000 near the Pennsylvania line, about 60 miles east of Cleveland.
Friends and family described the teens as good kids who weren’t troublemakers. Ms. Williamson said many of them would stay overnight in her basement.
She said her son called late Saturday night and said he was staying at the home of his best friend, Ramone White. She said it wasn’t until after the accident that she found out that wasn’t true.
State police identified the dead in the crash as the 19-year-old driver, Alexis Cayson; Andrique Bennett, 14; Brandon Murray, 14; and Kirklan Behner, Ramone White, and Daylan Ray, all 15.
Ms. Cayson and both the Murray and Ray youths drowned, the coroner said. Autopsies on the others were incomplete.