RIDGEVILLE CORNERS, Ohio - Two Fulton County juniors at Four County Career Center were killed on their way to school yesterday when their car hit a concrete culvert and a tree in Henry County.
Austin T. Bandy, 16, from Evergreen High School, was driving a 1998 Camaro and Jacob M. Baumgartner, 17, from Wauseon High School, was riding with him on Henry County Road X about four miles from the vocational school when the crash occurred about 8:30 a.m.
The Ohio Highway Patrol blamed the crash on speeding, saying Austin may have been trying to catch up to a friend who was driving to the career center for classes that start at 9 a.m. Austin and Jacob were pronounced dead at the scene, which other students from Fulton County came upon on their way to Four County.
It was Jacob's 17th birthday and the beginning of an emotional day at Four County, where both teens were in the power sports/small engine program. Students at the scene called others at school on their cell phones, and many knew there had been deaths - but didn't know who'd died - before classes started. Administrators called about 100 students from Evergreen, Wauseon, and the power sports program together to tell them first.
Four County called in three additional school psychologists from Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center for grief counseling. Evergreen had four additional counselors and two clergymen at the school.
Wauseon, which was celebrating Spirit Week, had counselors as well. It went ahead with a pep rally yesterday afternoon but opened it with a moment of si-lence for students to remember Jacob's friends and relatives. He had planned to attend the pep rally and tonight's homecoming dance, Wauseon High Principal Joe Sevenich said.
Austin and Jacob are the second and third fatalities in Four County's junior class in the first five weeks of this school year.
Jedidah A. King, 17, who attended Four County from Defiance High, was killed the first day of school, Aug. 28.
That was also a double fatality. Jedidah's passenger, Ashley Stanley, 16, a junior at Continental High School who was attending Vantage Career Center in Van Wert also was pronounced dead at the scene in Defiance County.
This week in Sandusky County, 16-year-old Todd Hatch was killed.
Injured in the same crash were four other juniors who attend Penta Career Center in Perrysburg Township from their home school of Woodmore.
A memorial service for Todd is set for 4 p.m. Monday in the Woodmore gym after a graveside service at 2 p.m. in Clyde. Classes will be dismissed early.
"It's really sad," Evergreen High School Principal Mark Basilius said. "We can't harp enough at our kids to slow down, wear your seat belts, stop at intersections."
The only witness to yesterday's crash, according to the patrol, was Kyle Baker, 16, another Four County student, who saw it in his rear-view mirror.
Kyle had been at a McDonald's restaurant with Jacob and Austin earlier. There, Jacob, who had originally been riding with Kyle, switched vehicles to ride with Austin, according to Kyle's statement to the patrol.
"I took off from McDonald's before they did, and they were trying to catch up to me," he told troopers.
Kyle first replied, "I don't think so," according to the patrol. When a trooper asked him again, he said, "I wasn't," but indicated he thought Austin was driving about 65 mph at the curve where the crash happened.
Contact Jane Schmucker at: