BRUNSWICK: An 18-year-old high school senior died of injuries suffered in a weekend car crash just hours before his graduation, raising the death toll to four students. A fifth student was injured.
The MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland released a statement from Kevin Fox’s family Monday morning saying he had died.
“We are grateful for the overwhelming support that the Northeast Ohio community has given our family during this difficult time,” the Fox family statement said.
A Columbia Township firefighter who called early Sunday with first word of the accident provided a quick assessment of how serious it was. “I need Life Flight [medical evacuation helicopter]. I have one ejected, one entrapped. Like I said, this is a rollover,” he told the dispatcher.
Investigators returned to the scene Monday and blocked off the sloping railroad crossing for an accident reconstruction to determine how the wreck happened. A steady stream of young people arrived at the scene, many leaving flowers, balloons and mementoes on the roadside.
A car carrying Fox and four other teenagers went airborne, crashed and flipped onto its roof at a railroad crossing early Sunday. Fox was ejected from the car’s backseat and landed in a ditch. He was flown to the hospital.
Fox and 18-year-old driver Jeffrey Chaya were to graduate from Brunswick High School on Sunday afternoon. Chaya also died.
Also killed were Blake Bartchak, 17, and Lexi Poerner, 16. A 17-year-old girl, Julia Romito, was injured, but Southwest General Hospital wouldn’t release information on her condition.
All five were students at Brunswick High School. In a tearful commencement ceremony Sunday afternoon at the University of Akron, Chaya’s and Fox’s names were called, a moment of silence was held and empty seats were covered with flowers left for them.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol said the 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier was traveling fast just after midnight when it hit the railroad tracks in Columbia Township. Chaya lost control as the car went off the right side, swerved back off the left side of the road, hit a ditch and tree, and flipped over onto the road, the patrol said.
Judy Arena, 46, who lives near the railroad crossing, said accidents by cars going too fast over the tracks are a common occurrence.
“I heard a horrendous crash, and I’m thinking, ‘Here we go again’,” she said.
She has seen young people park and watch their buddies speed over the tracks. “It’s as if they would have contests to see who would get the most air,” she said.
Even at 45 mph, the cars would go airborne, Arena said. “You will get airborne, even a conscientious driver,” she said.
The Lorain County coroner said Monday that the cause of death of the three other students killed in the crash was multiple trauma with head and neck injuries. Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans said no evidence was found of drug or alcohol use.
Patrol Lt. Travis Hughes said lab results and an analysis of the crash will take weeks.
Troopers so far blame excessive speed. Hughes said he knows of no other fatal crashes at the crossing in recent years.
At the suggestion of the school district, many students wore the school color, blue, to display a sense of unity on Monday.
Students were given the option of skipping their final exams Monday and Tuesday and instead having their third- and fourth-quarter grades averaged.
The district sent grief counselors to meet with students, teachers and staff members.