WARREN, Ohio (AP) — Investigators on Monday tried to piece together what eight teenagers crammed into a 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.
Whether all the teens knew the SUV was stolen wasn’t clear. Neither was their whereabouts before the crash.
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.
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, State Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt said. Five boys and a young woman, ages 14 to 19, 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.
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.
None of the teens in the five-seat 1998 Honda Passport was wearing a seat belt, state police said.
All eight teenagers were from Warren, a mostly blue-collar city of 41,000 near the Pennsylvania line, about 60 miles east of Cleveland.
Andre Bennett Sr., whose son Andrique was among those killed, said that his son and the others had all stayed over at a friend’s house and that a girl offered them a ride home.
At a prayer service Monday night, Mayor Doug Franklin told about 200 people that lessons can be learned from the crash. He spoke about the young people who died and their grieving relatives.
“They’re not unlike any other families and young people throughout our country,” he said. “Some bad decisions were made that led to this tragic event.”
Five of the dead were trapped inside the sunken SUV. A sixth was thrown from the vehicle and was found underneath it when it was taken out of the water.
State police identified them as the 19-year-old driver, Alexis Cayson; Andrique Bennett, 14; Brandon Murray, 14; and Kirklan Behner, Ramone White and Daylan Ray, all 15. Cayson, Murray and Ray drowned, the coroner said. Autopsies on the others were incomplete.
Brian Henry, 18, and Asher Lewis, 15, suffered only minor injuries.
“All I know is my baby is gone,” said Derrick Ray, who came to the crash site after viewing Daylan’s body at the morgue. He said he knew that his son, a football player who was looking forward to playing in high school, was out with friends, but didn’t know their plans.