• Mar 12, 2013

The young folks call them "kick-backs": a small gathering of friends, less than a party but more grown-up than a sleepover. Something to do on weekends after the mall closes and the last movie lets out.

A kick-back may hold the answers this struggling northeastern Ohio industrial city is searching for after six teenagers died when an allegedly stolen SUV crashed into a pond near dawn. Two other teens escaped the submerged vehicle after it flipped over the guardrail on what locals call "Dead Man's Curve."

One of the survivors said the 19-year-old driver was speeding before she hit a guard rail and the SUV flipped into a pond.

Brian Henry, 18, told reporters he tried to persuade the woman to slow down before the five-passenger Honda Passport, crammed with eight teenagers, sped down a 35-mph road and into the water early Sunday.

"The car had jerked out of control," Henry told TV station WYTV in Youngstown. "I don't know if she did it on purpose, or how fast she was going (if) that's why it jerked like that."

The driver and five boys died.

Henry said he was thrown into the back of the vehicle and blacked out until the chilly water made him alert. He used his elbow to break a window and wriggled out of the submerged vehicle along with 15-year-old Asher Lewis. The pair, who suffered only minor injuries, ran to a home to call 911.

Jacquelyn Kimble said she was scared by the early morning banging on her door but agreed to help after recognizing one of the boys.

"They were so scared. They were shaking and so cold," Kimble told the Warren Tribune Chronicle. "They kept saying she was driving crazy, that girl was driving crazy."

Car Reported Stolen Monday

Authorities have cautioned against speculation about what happened and say they're trying to gather facts as family and friends in this struggling northeastern Ohio industrial city try to fit the pieces of the tragedy together. All eight passengers came from the close-knit black community in this small, mostly working-class city of 41,000, so the deaths punched a hole in a part of Warren where everyone seems related by blood or marriage, and the rebellious rituals of youth have played out across generations.

The car was reported stolen on Monday, more than a day after the crash. It wasn't clear if the passengers knew the car was stolen.

Henry said the teens had been headed home. He said he caught a ride with the group after the other boys were already in the vehicle, so he's not sure what they had been doing earlier.

Lisa Williamson said her son, Brandon Murray, and his best friend, Ramone White, both 14, each told their parents they were sleeping at the other's house but then ended up at a kick-back and were probably trying to catch a ride home in the stolen SUV.

"They were just kids out having fun, not kids into gangs, no drugs involved," Williamson said. "They're just kids doing what we all did at one time."

Brandon and Ramone were close friends with another 14-year-old in the car, Andrique Bennett, known as "Butter." He told his father, Andre Bennett Sr., that he was staying overnight at a friend's house.

"It's something they did all the time - go to the mall, go to the movies, then stay over with their friends," the elder Bennett said Monday at his home, as family and friends came through the front door, bringing hugs, tears and love.

Typical Teens

Everyone described Andrique, Brandon and Ramone as typical teens. They weren't into crime or drugs. They were lovers of music, video games and sports.

Their mysterious whereabouts on the deadly night were typical, too, Brandon's mother said.

Sitting in her own living room, Williamson reminisced about her own Saturday nights growing up in Warren: "How many times did we pile into a car, having to get home before Sunday school?"

But she still can't understand: "What made them get in that car?"

Authorities were awaiting the results of drug and alcohol tests on the dead teens. Investigators say excessive speed was a key factor in the crash, and that the passengers weren't wearing seat belts.

Five of the dead were trapped inside the SUV when it flipped into about five feet of water. A sixth was thrown from the vehicle and found underneath it, authorities said.

In addition to Andrique, Brandon and Ramone, state patrol identified the dead as the driver, Alexis Cayson; Kirklan Behner, 15; and Daylan Ray, 15. Three drowned, and autopsies on the others were incomplete, the coroner said.

At a prayer service, Mayor Doug Franklin said lessons can be learned from the crash. He spoke about teaching young people to make good choices.

He said he wants others to know one thing about the young people who died:

"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."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      they be lieing like a dead dog in the middle of the road after a truck ran over it as the ole saying goes.........to cover their own part in the accident/theft of a vehicle. and? taking it for a joyride. and? their parents are not doing them any favors helping them to lie/cover it up. the truth will come out and then the polizi will show up at their door.
      • 1 Year Ago
      the sad thing is what no one is mentioning,where ? were their parents at ,and why were the kids/young adults out running around with no supervision,if they are out stealing vehicles and riding in them. i think we will find out hey all had some sort of juvy record/criminal record.
      • 1 Year Ago
      • 1 Year Ago
      It is so sad when you see a comment like this: The REASON today's kids are "out of control" is because our Social Services System blah blah blah bull crap! Social Services didn't get anyone pregnant. Parents need to take control & no one else. They are too lazy & expect the government to pay for them being stupid enough to f!@^*" without protection. Own up to your mistakes and take control of the kids you have.
      • 1 Year Ago
      "They were just kids out having fun, not kids into gangs, no drugs involved," Just kids having fun in a stolen $40,000.00 vehicle. Since when is that okay? Has society become so accustomed to the media spin on things that all we are considering is the fact that teenagers lost there lives. Not the fact that these were lying little thugs? Lied to there parents about there whereabouts. Riding in a stolen SUV. A 19 year old unwed mother who had a 4 year old? The media will spin them as saints, the person who owned the SUV will be held liable for the passengers deaths, lawsuits will unfold, millions in premium dollars paid to the survivors, and the rest of our insurance rates will continue to go up. All because "They were just kids out having fun, not kids into gangs, no drugs involved,"
      • 1 Year Ago
      IT`s NOT WHAT WE ALL did at one time, Steeling cars is not what we do or did...
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lets get the facts right---Please. The driver didn't have a lincense, it was after an all night party(6:30am), in a stolden Honda(UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED)Passport, overloaded(8 people),speeding,drinking-drugs ?(test results in 2 months ? why so long--cover up ?) where are the parents of all 8 different familys ?? I live in near by Youngstown and our local news is my source.as poor as it is. The driver (18) has a four year old baby so this ins't the first time she was doing wrong. There was a 14 year and a 15 year old that lost their lives, why are they even at parties with 18 year old kids ? Again where are the parents ??
      • 1 Year Ago
      Typical teens doing what we have done in the past? What kind of crap is that? Steling a car is part of being a teenager? Some stupid excuses for young delinquents.
      • 1 Year Ago
      all kids are kids,my GOD be with them all.just hope the kids in town will see what can happen at any time.they all want to grow up tp fast..i dont think a kid should have a cell phone.18 and up is ok.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Not going to speculate or judge . God, please give the families and friends the strength to deal with this terrible tragedy.......
      • 1 Year Ago
      Todays world is sure different than when I was a youngster. 40+ years ago, prom night, a car full of my friends..pulled out in front of a tractor trailer, loaded with cinderblock. Man.....what a nightmare. Even if that vehicle were stolen, they were kids, young, full of life....some of them future makers and shakers of America. Stealing a car in America these days, seems to be the national pastime. No excuses for the theft, terrible price to pay for that theft. So...if you are young, stick to parties at your friends houses, when the parents are gone.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I am applauding to the two brave young boys who were able to break the window and escape. It must have been horrifying.
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