WARREN - City and school officials deemed appropriate the overcast sky that met them on Monday morning in the wake of the SUV crash that left six local teens dead and two others injured just a day earlier.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt said investigators were still trying to answer questions about Sunday's fatal crash, one he believes could be the deadliest in Trumbull County history - and in at least three years in Ohio.
Holt joined Warren City Schools Superintendent Michael Notar, Valley Counseling's Ed Bolino, who is also a former city school board member, and Warren Mayor Doug Franklin at a news conference at the Warren City Schools Administration Building downtown.
''This is still a puzzle we are trying to piece together,'' Holt told at least 20 members of local, state and national media. "We will keep everyone updated as much as we can. We really can't release anything more until we have solid information."
Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk said autopsies performed Monday on three of the victims - Alexis Cayson, 19, Daylan Ray, 15, and Brandon A. Murray, 14 - showed they drowned. He said autopsies on Andrique Bennett, 14; Kirklan M. Behner, 15; and Ramone M. White, 15, were scheduled today.
Meanwhile, Holt, commander of the OSP Warren Post, said the eight occupants, all from Warren, were traveling in an SUV that was equipped for five people. None of the eight occupants was wearing safety belts.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Warren G. Harding High School students, from left, juniors Devonte Williams, 18, and Ashley Allen and Jolene Van Meter, both 17, on Monday stopped by a memorial on Pine Avenue S.E. for six teens from Warren killed in a traffic crash Sunday morning.
Brian K. Henry, 18, and Asher C. Lewis, 15, survived. They were treated for injuries at St. Joseph Health Center and Trumbull Memorial and released on Sunday. Holt said their injuries did not appear to be serious.
The commander said investigators believe the vehicle - a 1998 Honda Passport - was traveling at a high rate of speed, though it was not clear how fast the teens were moving in the 35-mile-per-hour zone. It doesn't appear weather played a part.
"It was an unseasonable warm morning," Holt said. "There may also have been some visibility issue at that time of the morning. We don't know for sure at this point."
Two teens were students at Willard K-8 school, two were students at Warren G. Harding High School, and one was a past student at Harding, school officials confirmed. Notar and Holt also addressed an assembly of students at Harding.
Holt said investigators are still trying to learn how the teens got the SUV, what caused them to lose control of the vehicle, why so many of them were packed into a vehicle they did not have ''express'' permission to use, where they had been or where they were going.
Holt said he did not want to speculate about the crash but wait for investigators to gather more evidence.
Troopers said the Passport, driven by Cayson, veered off the left side of the road, struck a guardrail and rolled over onto its roof into a nearby pond. The vehicle has since been inspected, according to the patrol, and there were no defects found that would have contributed to it losing control.
OSP also determined that "the first harmful event in the crash took place with the guardrail," according to a news release issued late Monday afternoon.
Holt would not say where each teen was sitting in the SUV at the time of the crash. However, he explained the survivors, who have each cooperated with investigators, climbed to the back of the vehicle, broke a window, got out and were able to swim to land. He said they ran a quarter-mile to the closest residence to call for help.
Holt said there was enough water, between 4 1/5 to 5 feet, to flood the vehicle. The vehicle was registered to Marguis Stephenson of Youngstown. Holt said Stephenson is not related to any of the teens and it was not made clear if he knew any of them.
The vehicle had not been reported missing or stolen, Holt said, and Stephenson said none of the teens had permission to use it. However, at 12:02 p.m. Monday, Stephenson filed a theft report with Warren police claiming that the vehicle was taken from North Feederle Road in Warren.
Authorities said they are waiting for toxicology results to determine whether drugs or alcohol contributed to the crash.
"We have to be careful not to speculate or not to assume," Holt said.