11 Teens Dead in Two Horrific Car Crashes in Ohio & Texas: Lessons Learned

The news in Ohio was bad enough on March 10, when six teenagers were killed in an overcrowded, speeding, stolen SUV that left a roadway and overturned into a pond.

It got worse hours later on that same fateful Sunday, when across the country five other teens were killed in Texas when the SUV they were riding in ran through a stop sign and collided with a gas tanker truck, leading to an inferno that spared only the adult truck driver.

In the Ohio crash, near Warren, the six teens were among eight who had crowded into a stolen black Honda Passport SUV that is only designed to hold five passengers, according to a report by CNN.com. Two of the teens survived by swimming to safety after breaking a window in the overturned, water-flooded vehicle, the story reported.

The SUV was speeding down the two-lane road, faster than the posted 35 mph speed limit, police told CNN. The Honda apparently veered off the left side of the road and crashed into a guardrail before flipping into a pond. No sign of drugs or alcohol were found in the SUV, police said.

“Investigators are trying to determine why, but Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt said Monday that weather was not a factor in what he called the deadliest traffic accident in Trumbull County history — and the worst in Ohio in at least three years,” CNN reported.

Particularly frightening was the news that none of the eight passengers in the SUV was wearing a seat belt.

The victims included the driver, Alexis Cayson, 19; and passengers Andrique Bennett, 14; Kirklan M. Behner, 15; Daylan Ray, 15; Brandon A. Murray, 14; and Ramone M. White, 15, according to CNN. All of the teens were from Warren.

The two surviving teens ran a quarter mile to a nearby home to call for help after they escaped from the submerged SUV, according to the report.

In the Texas crash just hours later, 16-year-old Jacob Paul Stipe failed to stop at a stop sign in a rural intersection in Dumas as he drove a Chevrolet SUV, according to a report from CNN. The SUV was struck broadside by the tanker truck, causing both vehicles to burst into flames.

The teen died at the scene, as did his four passengers: October Dawn Roys, 17; Elizabeth Kay Roys, 15; Derrek Lee Hager, 17; and Christopher Lee Moore, 17, according to the report. The Roys girls were sisters.

The truck driver, Ezequel Melecio Garcia, survived and was flown to a hospital burn unit.

Both tragedies are certainly unbearable for the families, friends and communities that are involved.

The crashes are stark reminders of the dangers that await teens every time they step into motor vehicles, according to sobering statistics from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Traffic accidents continue to be the leading cause of death for young people – ages 15 to 20 years old – in America, according to the NHTSA. “Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers,” the agency states.

As many as 5,000 teens are killed in passenger vehicle crashes in the U.S. each year, according to agency statistics. “During 2006, a teen died in a traffic crash an average of once every hour on weekends and nearly once every two hours during the week.”

Contributors to those terrifying statistics include inexperience and immaturity combined with speed, drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts, distracted driving (cell phone use, loud music, other teen passengers, etc.), drowsy driving, nighttime driving, and other drug use, according to the agency.

In vehicle accidents involving teens, they are at far greater risk of death in an alcohol-related crash than the overall population, despite the fact that they are below the minimum drinking age in every state, according to the NHTSA. “Among 15- to 20-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2006, 31 percent of the drivers who were killed had been drinking and 77 percent of these drivers were unrestrained [by seatbelts].”

Also notable in accidents involving young people, according to the NHTSA, teens have lower seat belt use rates than adults. “Despite efforts aimed at increasing belt use in this age group, observed use among teens and young adults (16 to 24 years old) in 2008 was the lowest of any age group at 80 percent. In fatal motor-vehicle crashes, the majority of teens (16 to 20 years old) continue to be unbuckled (56 percent in 2009).”

So what can be done to help prevent more deaths in similar crashes?

That’s where parents, police and communities need to be more involved, according to experts.

The teens in the Ohio crash apparently had told different stories to their parents about where they would be that night, according to an Associated Press story.

“There were lies told to parents, a car with five seats carrying eight teens, and an unlicensed driver,” reported the AP. “The car was speeding. No seat belts were used. If parents of teenagers need a real-life cautionary tale to sum up all their warnings and fears, surely the crash of a stolen car in Warren, Ohio that killed six teenagers is it.”

To help protect their children from such tragedies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers a factsheet on the importance of parental monitoring, including talking to their children about where they will be, what they will be doing, who they will be with and when they will return home.

Some parents are already using the lessons learned from the tragedies in Ohio and Texas to remind their teens that driving or traveling in motor vehicles is serious business, according to the AP story. “You heard about that story?” Daniel Flannery, an Ohio father of three teens, asked his kids as news of the tragedy filtered out. “This could happen to you. It’s horrible. These kids are not coming home. I don’t want you to be that person.”

Mario Almonte of Queens, N.Y., told the AP that he and his wife talked to their teenage son about driving safety as the boy approaches the day when he will get his driver’s license. “We pointed to this tragedy and mentioned that he shouldn’t think something like this can never happen to him,” Almonte told the AP. “Sometimes it just takes one bad decision to end in tragedy.”

These tragedies are a good opportunity to talk with our children about their safety in motor vehicles, whether they are driving or if they are traveling in vehicles being operated by their friends. We can remind them not to make poor decisions, to respect the inherent dangers of vehicles and to not be afraid to call us if they need help or a ride or advice in any situation.

We all grieve with the families of the teens who died in these terrible crashes. May they all find the strength to get through the days and months and years to come.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle accident caused by another driver anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-(866) 352-4572 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.