WARREN, Ohio (AP) – A sport utility vehicle sped down a two-lane Ohio road at nearly twice the speed limit before a crash that killed six teenagers last month, and their toxicology tests have turned up no sign of alcohol or drugs, authorities said Thursday as they worked to wrap up the investigation.
A crash reconstruction revealed the SUV was traveling between 62 mph and 70 mph on a 35-mph road before it flipped into a pond in a dark, unlit area in Warren on March 10, killing the 19-year-old driver and five of the seven boys riding with her, State Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt said. None of them was wearing a seatbelt.
Investigators determined that the teens had been at various houses in Warren in the hours before the early morning crash and that the 19-year-old, Alexis Cayson, had been driving the SUV on and off throughout the night with teenage passengers, including some who weren’t involved in the crash, and had been driving recklessly.
“We know she was reckless and erratic. … Kind of the whole night was just a joyriding situation,” Holt said.
It’s unclear what the teens were doing at the houses they visited, and investigators have to rely on the toxicology results, he said. Drug tests for Cayson and three boys who died found no sign of drugs. Results aren’t complete for two more boys who died and two who survived, according to the patrol.
All eight teens were from Warren, a mostly blue-collar city about 50 miles southeast of Cleveland. Grieving relatives and friends had hoped the Thursday update from authorities would provide some answers.
“It’s still an open wound,” Holt said. “This will be, hopefully, one step toward that closure that’s needed for the families and for the community.”
The update addressed some of the lingering questions about the circumstances of the crash, but other points remain unsettled, including exactly why the driver lost control of the SUV, which was later reported stolen.
Investigators found no evidence that anyone interfered with Cayson’s driving in a way that would have caused her to lose control. She didn’t have a valid license.
One of the boys who wriggled out of the wreckage, 15-year-old Asher Lewis, told a state trooper that Cayson had been swerving and speeding and said he believed she did it intentionally, though he wasn’t sure why.
The other survivor, 18-year-old Brian Henry, told investigators he had pleaded for Cayson to slow down but that she instead sped up on a stretch of road known as “Dead Man’s Curve.”
The state patrol identified the boys who drowned as Brandon Murray; Ramone White; Andrique Bennett; Kirklan Behner; and Daylan Ray. All of them were age 14 or 15.
The SUV’s owner told troopers that his sister lived with Cayson and that she had taken the keys without his permission while he was sleeping at their apartment.
No one has been charged, but the investigation will be sent to the Trumbull County prosecutor’s office for review, Holt said.
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