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WARREN, Ohio — A sport utility vehicle carrying eight teenagers crashed into a guardrail early today and flipped over into a swampy pond in northeast Ohio, killing five boys and a girl, the state highway patrol said.
The Honda Passport veered off the left side of a road and overturned just south of the city of Warren, about 60 miles east of Cleveland, Lt. Anne Ralston said. Investigators say it came to rest upside down in the swamp and sank with five of the victims trapped inside. A sixth who was thrown from the SUV during the crash was found under it when the vehicle was taken out of the water.
The two boys who survived, escaped from the submerged vehicle and ran to a nearby home to call 911, the highway patrol said.
Lieutenant Ralston didn’t know where the teens were headed when the crash happened at about 7 a.m. She didn’t have any information to release on possible causes or factors in the crash, but the highway patrol planned a news conference for later today.
“All I know is my baby is gone,” said Derrick Ray, who came to the crash site after viewing his 15-year-old son Daylan’s body at the county morgue. He said he knew that his son, a talented football player who was looking forward to playing in high school, was out with friends, but didn’t know their plans.
A pile of blue, green, and copper-red stuffed bears grew at a makeshift memorial at the crash site along a two-lane road tightly bordered with guardrails on either side in an industrial area. The sport utility vehicle had sheared off tall cattails along the guardrail.
There were also notes at the memorial, including a letter from Daylan Ray’s 12-year-old half-sister, Mariah Bryant, who said she had learned they were related only in the past year.
“It hurts, it really does, because they are so young and, like, they could have had so much more to life,” she said. “We just really started getting close, and it’s hard to believe he’s gone.”
Warren Fire Department Capt. Bill Monrean said a cold water rescue team was deployed to the scene and got five teens out of the submerged vehicle.
“Being a cold water rescue situation, cold water extends life,” Captain Monrean said. “We knew we had a chance; even being in there a while.”
Two of the teens, both 15, were brought to a hospital in full cardiac arrest, St. Joseph Health Center nursing supervisor Julie Gill said, and were pronounced dead there. She said they were treated for hypothermic drowning trauma, indicating they had been submerged in cold water.
The two who survived, 18-year-old Brian Henry and 15-year-old Asher Lewis, both of Warren, were treated for bruising and other injuries and released, she said.
All those killed were ages 14 to 19, authorities said. State police identified them as 19-year-old Alexis Cayson; Andrique Bennett, 14; Brandon Murray, 17; and Kirklan Behner, Ramone White, and the Ray youth, all 15. The Highway Patrol said the Cayson youth was the only female in the vehicle. It wasn’t clear who was driving.
Rickie Bowling, 18, a friend of the Behner youth, sobbed at the crash scene as she recalled his playfulness and reputation as a cut-up.
“He was one of a kind,” she said. “Everyone knew him in the neighborhood. In school, he always made everyone laugh.”
Ms. Bowling said the tragedy highlighted the importance of savoring life. “Basically, enjoy every second in life,” she said. “Enjoy life while you’ve got it and while you’re here and enjoy people that you love.”
She said she would rely on her faith in the difficult days ahead. “The only way to look at it is on the bright side: he's in a better place,” she said.
Jasmine McClintock, 22, a friend of a victim, visited the crash scene and said it should serve as a warning for parents to be aware of their children’s activities.
“I hope it’s an eye-opener for parents,” she said while watching the slow ripple of the pond water littered with debris, some apparently from the crash.
Ms. McClintock said she was troubled by the question of what the victims were doing out at that hour, not knowing if they had been out all night or left home early.
“That’s the part that boggles my mind. It’s like on a Sunday if you’re not going to church, what are you doing at 7 a.m. out driving,” she asked.
All eight were from Warren. It’s not believed that any of them were closely related, the highway patrol said.
Near the Pennsylvania state line, Warren is a mostly blue-collar city that was hit by the decline of U.S. steel mills; it has more than 41,000 residents in the industrial Mahoning Valley region.