SYCAMORE, Ohio - Although she was killed in a three-vehicle accident the day before her high school graduation, 18-year-old Carrie Payne's death didn't stop her family from attending the ceremony.
Carrie's brother, William, 22, received a standing ovation last night at Mohawk High School in Sycamore as he accepted his sister's diploma.
Carrie's mother, Debra; her father, Steve, and her oldest brother, Ryan, looked on with a sense of satisfaction.
"That's why we're here," Mrs. Payne said. "She worked hard to get this and we thought she deserved it."
Carrie's best friend, Shelby Routt, said Carrie loved children and planned to be a teacher.
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[Carrie] was amazing. She was fun," Shelby said. "She was always reliable - someone you always could count on. You knew she'd be there."
Carrie, who was driving one of the vehicles, was pronounced dead at the scene - State Rt. 568, just east of Marion Township Road 215, according to the Hancock County Sheriff's Office.
One of her passengers, Heidi Tanner, 17, of Vanlue, Ohio, died yesterday in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.
Two other passengers in Carrie's vehicle, Kylie Nutter, 17, of Sycamore, and Jacklyn McKitrick, 13, of Vanlue, were taken to Blanchard Valley Hospital, Findlay. A hospital spokesman had no information last night on people by those names.
Sheriff's deputies said everyone in Carrie's car was wearing a seat belt and there was no indication anyone was intoxicated.
Also involved in the accident were vehicles driven by Roger Brickner, 55, of Findlay, who was treated at the scene, and Anthony Simon, 24, of Findlay.
Mr. Simon and his passenger, J. Michael Warner, 48, of Findlay, also were taken to Blanchard Valley Hospital. Mr. Simon was transferred to St. Vincent, where he was in serious condition last night. Mr. Warner was treated at Blanchard Valley.
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Carrie and her friends were listening to music while en route to Vanlue about 5:50 p.m. Thursday after visiting a Wal-Mart in Findlay, authorities said.
Witnesses told investigators that Carrie's vehicle was operating erratically, swerving back and forth, while traveling east on Route 568.
Her vehicle, while left of center in the westbound lane, hit the driver's side and rear bumper of the vehicle driven by Mr. Brickner, who swerved off the road in an attempt to avoid the collision, deputies said.
Carrie's vehicle continued east in the westbound lane, and went off the north side of the road before returning to the westbound lane and colliding with the front driver's side of Mr. Simon's vehicle, which was westbound on Route 568, deputies said.
Both vehicles spun and ended up in ditches on opposite sides of the road, deputies said.
The accident and its aftermath were a shocking and painful prelude to what was supposed to be one of the best days of Debra Payne's life.
But her daughter's death didn't stop Mrs. Payne and her family and friends from celebrating Carrie's life.
"Everybody tells me when she walked in a room, she lit up the room," she said after the graduation ceremony. "It didn't matter if you were in a bad mood."
Mohawk Local Schools Superintendent Sam Martin said although the graduation ceremony was filled with mixed emotions, it was important for the graduates to enjoy their accomplishments.
Dozens of classmates hosted a candlelight vigil at the high school on Thursday only a few hours after they learned that Carrie had died.
"I think that helped a lot of them cope with the situation," Mr. Martin said.
The crash remains under investigation.
Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:
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Although she was killed in a three-vehicle accident the day before her high school graduation, 18-year-old Carrie Payne's death didn't stop her family from attending the ceremony. Carrie's brother, William, 22, received a standing ovation last night at Mohawk High School in Sycamore as he accepted his sister's diploma. Carrie's mother, Debra; her father, Steve, and her oldest brother, Ryan, looked on with a sense of satisfaction.