The mood throughout three Ravenna schools was somber Monday.
Sierra Thornton, a Ravenna High School sophomore, died Sunday evening in a horrific crash with a train near her home.
Her four younger sisters, who attend the middle school and an elementary school, were injured in the collision, as was their father. All are expected to survive.
Her sister Katlyn, 13, was being treated at Akron Children’s Hospital on Monday. Three younger sisters — Juliana, 12, Morgan, 10, and Paige, 9 — have been released, a hospital spokeswoman said Monday.
The girls’ father. Andy Thornton, 41, also was injured in the crash. He was treated and released from Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna.
Ravenna Schools Superintendent Dennis Honkala sent a phone message to parents in the district alerting them of the death and injuries. He said additional counselors were at school buildings to help any students or staff who needed assistance.
“We’re all struggling. It’s pretty somber,” he said. “It’s a family that’s all across the district, every age group.”
Sierra Thornton, 15, was practicing driving on her learner’s permit Sunday evening near her South Prospect Street home when the collision took place. Her father was in the passenger-side front seat, and her sisters were seated in the back.
As a train approached, Sierra stopped the SUV on the railroad tracks and apparently panicked, authorities said. Her sister in a 911-call says Sierra couldn’t back the SUV off the tracks.
“The vehicle was just absolutely destroyed,” Portage County Sheriff David Doak said Monday. “It was found upside down and it apparently rolled over once or twice at least.”
The crash happened on an access road off South Prospect that crosses the railroad tracks and enters the Thorntons’ property and adjoining properties. The tracks are well-known to the family. The six family members had just left their home and were approaching the tracks when the crash occurred.
“If there’s any good news out of this, it’s that there weren’t more fatalities,” Doak said. “But it’s pretty tragic and devastating for the family, I’m sure.”
Sierra was an honor roll student at Ravenna High School, where she also participated in track and worked on the school yearbook.
Because of the Thornton children’s ages, counselors were needed at the district’s high school, middle school and an elementary school.
A community vigil was held Monday night outside the Ravenna 1st Church of the Nazarene.
“It’s a matter of processing the grief for many of the kids. For a lot of them, it’s the first time they have been exposed to death,” Honkala said.