WARREN, Ohio (AP) — Investigators were focused on speed as a key factor in the crash of a sport utility vehicle carrying eight teenagers that smashed into a guardrail and flipped over into a swampy pond, killing five boys and the young woman driving.
While citing an unspecified "high rate" of speed, investigators wouldn't speculate on whether alcohol or drugs were involved in the crash about 7 a.m. Sunday on a two-lane road snugged between guardrails just south of this industrial Ohio community.
No one in the vehicle had permission to take it, but there were no theft reports, State Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt said. The vehicle was licensed to a resident of Youngstown, about 20 miles away.
"I can't believe you're gone," Mariah Bryant, 12, wrote in a message taped to a stuffed bear at the scene in memory of her half-brother, Daylan Ray, 15, who was killed.
"I love and miss you so much," said the message, which drew a steady stream of onlookers. The bear was part of a growing memorial of stuffed animals at the roadside.
Deanna Behner said her 15-year-old son and the other teenagers were close friends who lived in the same neighborhood on the east side of Warren, Youngstown TV stations WKBN and WYTV reported. Behner told the stations that authorities unsuccessfully tried for hours to save her son, Kirklan Behner.
The Honda Passport veered off the left side of a road and overturned about 60 miles east of Cleveland, State Highway Patrol 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.