WARREN (AP) — 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 northwestern Ohio industrial city is searching for after six teenagers died when a 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.”
Authorities have cautioned against speculation about what happened and say they’re trying to gather facts as family and friends in this struggling northwestern 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 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 already were in the vehicle, so he’s not sure what they had been doing earlier.
By JESSE WASHINGTON
AP National Writer