Mindy Morgan reads a note at the memorial where six teens were killed in a car crash in Warren, Ohio on Sunday.
(Photo: Scott R. Galvin, AP)
USA Today Staff and wire reports
A pile of blue, green and copper-red stuffed bears grew at a makeshift memorial where a sports utility vehicle veered into a guardrail Sunday morning and flipped over into a swampy pond in northeastern Ohio, killing six of the eight teenage passengers, the state highway patrol said.
The Honda Passport, taken without permission, was licensed to a resident of Youngstown, about 20 miles away, State Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt said. It was unknown where the teens were headed when the crash happened at about 7 a.m., and it wasn't clear how long they had been out.
Authorities cited an unspecified "high rate" of speed in the crash, but would not speculate on whether alcohol or drugs were involved, the Associated Press reported.
"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.
Daylan Ray's 12-year-old half-sister, Mariah Bryant, left a heartfelt letter at the memorial. "It hurts, it really does, because they are so young and, like, they could have had so much more to life," she said.
In the past year she learned that Ray was her brother. "We just really started getting close, and it's hard to believe he's gone."
Killed in the crash were 19-year-old Alexis Cayson, 14-year-old Andrique Bennett, 17-year-old Brandon Murray, and Kirklan Behner, Daylan Ray, and Ramone White, all 15-years-old.
Officials identified Cayson as the driver, the only woman in the SUV.
"She was loving. She was silly and she was a clown. She liked to make everybody laugh even when we were sad," Ashia Cayson told CNN affiliate WKBN about her sister Alexis, who died in the crash.
The two survivors, Brian Henry, 18, and Asher Lewis, 15, escaped from the submerged vehicle and ran a quarter-mile to a home to call 911, the highway patrol said. They were treated for bruising and other injuries and released, said Julie Gill, a nursing supervisor at St. Joseph Health Center in Warren. All of the victims are from Warren, Ohio.
The accident happened just before 7 a.m. Sunday. The Honda Passport went off the side of the road and overturned just south of the city of Warren, about 60 miles east of Cleveland. Investigators said 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.
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," Monrean told AP Radio. "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," Gill said, and were pronounced dead there. She said they were treated for hypothermic drowning trauma, indicating they had been submerged in cold water.
Rickie Bowling, 18, a friend of Behner who died in the crash, sobbed at the 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."
Bowling said the tragedy highlighted the importance of cherishing 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.
Contributing: Rachel Huggins, Associated Press