By JOHN SEEWER
This Monday, March 11, 2013 photo in Southington, Ohio shows the vehicle where six people died in a crash early Sunday in Warren, Ohio. Two teens who escaped the crash that killed six friends in a swampy pond wriggled out of the wreckage by smashing a rear window and swimming away from the SUV, a state trooper said Monday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Sitting in the front passenger seat of a speeding SUV with six friends crammed behind him, Brian Henry pleaded for the 19-year-old woman behind the wheel to slow down.
But she only sped up when the SUV that was later reported to be stolen rounded what’s known as “Dead Man’s Curve” just blocks from his home, Henry told investigators in the northeast Ohio city of Warren.
The sport-utility vehicle smacked a guardrail and rolled, landing upside down in a pond and killing five boys and the driver, Alexis Cayson, who didn’t have a valid license, according to a report on the crash released Tuesday.
A coroner said Tuesday that all six drowned.
Henry and the only other survivor, who both swam out of submerged vehicle, told state troopers of the frightening minutes before and after the Sunday morning crash that has devastated many in Warren, a mostly working-class city in the shadow of Youngstown.
Asher Lewis, 15, told a state trooper it felt like the SUV was going 80 mph on the road that winds past a steel mill and has a 35-mph speed limit.
“The lady driving was playing around when she was driving,” said Lewis, who added that the five-passenger Honda Passport was so packed he couldn’t see who was driving when he climbed into the back. “She was swerving and speeding. I think she was driving on purpose like that but I’m not sure why.”
Henry, 18, said in his statement to a trooper that Cayson lost control on the curve after speeding up. He hit his head on the dashboard when the SUV flipped.
“I blanked out for a little bit and then the truck was upside-down in the water,” Henry said. “There was air in the truck but it was filling with water.”
Henry broke out the rear window with his elbow, the report said. “My feet were stuck on the seatbelt so it took a little bit to get out. I came out with no shoes on.”
The two boys, who sustained only minor injuries, swam to shore and ran to a home to call for help.
In a 911 call released Tuesday, Jacquelyn Kimble said that the two survivors were “beat up pretty bad.”
“Can you send an ambulance?” she asks in the call. “Two of my friends got into an accident around Pine Street and they just came over here. They are messed up pretty bad. Can you please send somebody quick?”
Her husband, Jeremy Kimble, told police that Henry was “covered with blood’ and that Lewis had mud all over.
“They said the girl was swerving, driving crazy, lost control and flipped,” Kimble told police.
While the reports released Tuesday shed more light on what happened just before the crash, it’s still not clear if the passengers knew the car was stolen.
Henry said Cayson picked him and Lewis up after they stayed at a friend’s house. Henry said there were already five or six others in the Passport. He said he was not sure where the others in the Passport had been earlier.
The SUV’s owner told state troopers that his sister lives with Cayson and that she took the keys without his permission early Sunday morning while he was sleeping at their apartment.
Marquis Stephenson said they went looking for Cayson when he realized his SUV was gone.
“We got a hold of some family members and they said Lexi was in a bad crash,” said Stephenson, who told police she hadn’t taken his car before.
Tim Cayson, who told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he was the driver’s uncle, said she had a 4-year-old son. He refused to answers questions about her driving.
Lisa Williamson said her son, Brandon Murray, and his best friend, Ramone White, both 14, each told their parents they were sleeping at the other’s house but then ended up at a party. “They were just kids out having fun, not kids into gangs, no drugs involved,” Williamson said.
Authorities were awaiting the results of drug and alcohol tests on the dead teens. Investigators say excessive speed was a key factor in the crash, and that the passengers weren’t wearing seat belts.
Five of the dead were trapped inside the SUV when it flipped into about five feet of water. A sixth was thrown from the vehicle and found underneath it, authorities said.
In addition to the driver and Brandon and Ramone, state patrol identified the dead as Andrique Bennett, 14; Kirklan Behner, 15; and Daylan Ray, 15.
Associated Press Writers Dan Sewell and Amanda Lee Myers in Cincinnati and Jesse Washington in Warren contributed to this report.