WARREN - One of the two survivors of Sunday's SUV crash that killed six local teens told investigators that it felt like the driver was going 80 miles an hour.
Asher Lewis, 15, told investigators he did not know who the driver was when he got into the packed vehicle, according to his witness statement.
"The lady driving was playing around when she was driving," Lewis told investigators. "She was swerving and speeding."
The driver, Alexis Cayson, 19, did not have a driver's license, according to Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles records, and investigators said she may have been distracted.
Investigators said they are waiting for toxicology results to determine whether drugs or alcohol were a factor in the crash. They said they are also trying to determine how fast Cayson was driving in the 35-mile-per-hour speeding zone.
"We have investigators who are working on the reconstruction of the crash and gathering evidence," Ohio State Patrol Lt. Anne Ralston said. "We will update information as it becomes available."
Investigators have said it was the deadliest crash in Trumbull County history and in Ohio in at least three years.
Along with Cayson, killed were Daylan Ray, 15; Brandon A. Murray, 14; Andrique Bennett, 14; Kirklan M. Behner, 15; and Ramone M. White, 15.
Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk said the deaths were accidental and autopsies performed Monday and Tuesday showed all of the victims drowned. Cayson suffered bruising to the chest and stomach area, which the coroner said was likely caused by her torso striking the steering wheel, according to a State Patrol crash report released Tuesday.
The other survivor, Brian Henry, 18, told investigators he was in the front of the vehicle with Cayson and that he had asked her to slow down.
"We were on the Buckeye Curve and Alexis sped up. I don't know why. She lost control in the curve," Henry wrote in his witness statement.
Lewis and Henry were each treated and released from local hospitals on Sunday.
The crash report states that none of the occupants were wearing seat belts. Five of them were trapped inside the SUV and a sixth was thrown from the vehicle and found underneath it, according to reports.
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.
Troopers said Cayson was traveling on Niles-Warren River Road, County Road 69, around 7 a.m. when the vehicle veered off the left side of the road, struck a guardrail and rolled over onto its roof into a nearby pond, where it was immersed in water. That stretch of road is Pine Street S.E., but at Warren City limits becomes Niles-Warren River Road, or County Road 69, according to the Trumbull County Engineer.
Lewis stated he was with Henry at a friend's house on Maple Street, and that Henry "had a ride set up to go back to his house." Lewis stated he did not know who was coming to pick them up, but that Henry woke him and told him it was time to go.
He stated he got into the back seat of the vehicle and Henry got in the front. He said he sat behind the driver's seat with Bennett on his lap. He said he did not know everyone in the vehicle but that they were "squeezed" in.
The survivors each stated Cayson stopped at a downtown gas station after picking them up.
Lewis said he went blank for a second after the vehicle went into the water. He woke up when Henry was "busting out the passenger back window," he stated.
He reported that Henry went out first and he followed, trying to grab Bennett, "but couldn't because the water was pushing in." He told investigators that he and Henry were hanging onto the vehicle, yelling names before swimming to shore and going to a nearby house for help.
Henry stated Cayson had five or six other people in the vehicle when she picked Lewis and him up from Maple Street. He stated he knew all of the occupants except one. He said he and Lewis were going to be dropped off at Henry's house on Milton Street. He said Behner and Ray were in the back, along with Lewis.
"We were on Buckeye Curve and Alexis sped up," he stated. "I don't know why. She lost control on the curve. I blanked out for a little bit and then the truck was upside down in the water."
He stated there was air in the truck but it was filling with water.
He stated he broke out a window with his elbow, struggled to free his feet, which were tangled in the seat belts, and climbed out with no shoes on as the vehicle was filling with water.
The two teens made their way to the Kimble residence for help. In his statement, Jeremy Kimble said he was asleep when he heard a knock that woke him up. He stated that Henry was covered in blood, Lewis was covered in mud and that Henry told him everyone in the car had died.
The SUV belonged to Marquis Stephenson, 33, of Youngstown, who reported it missing on Monday, almost 30 hours after the crash.
In his statement, Stephenson wrote that he was spending the night at his sister's house on North Feederle Drive S.E. He said Cayson had taken the keys out of his jacket around 4 a.m. Sunday, but he never gave her permission to drive the SUV.
He said when he woke up to go to work Cayson was gone. He stated he asked his sister, Precious Stephenson, where Cayson was, but she didn't know.
The two went looking for Cayson but did not find her and later learned she had been in a bad crash, according to the report.
Precious Stephenson reported she saw Cayson at home early Sunday morning before going upstairs. She said later, around 8:45 a.m. Sunday, her brother asked if she had seen Cayson and told her she had taken his keys and that his vehicle was not in the parking lot. She stated she and her brother went to look for Cayson, who was not answering her phone.
She stated Cayson, who had lived with her since around September, had never taken her brother's vehicle in the past and that he and Cayson had known each other through her. Marquis Stephenson stated Cayson had not taken his keys previously, that he was not sure why she wanted to take the vehicle, but he guessed for "joy riding or something," or why so many people were in the vehicle.
Lewis told investigators he did not know where Cayson had been before she picked him up, or where she was planning to go after dropping him off.
"I think she was driving on purpose like that but I'm not sure why," Lewis stated.