By Ed Runyan
Seat belts were not in use, the highway patrol says.
WARREN — Young people from all over the area came to Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital on Tuesday to visit Kaylynn Barco, 17, of Southington, thankful she’s still alive after a car accident killed a second girl.
Christie Manchester, 17, also of Southington, died at the scene of the 11:37 p.m. Monday single-car accident on State Road in Champion across from Meadow Brook Cemetery.
A third passenger, Ellen Becker, 18, of Struthers, was flown by helicopter to St. Elizabeth Health Center, where she was in critical condition Tuesday morning. The hospital declined to discuss her condition Tuesday evening.
Manchester was driving a 1994 Pontiac Grand Am west toward Southington when the car left the road and hit two trees, the Ohio State Highway Patrol in Southington said.
So far, nobody knows what caused the vehicle to leave the road, and Barco told officers she didn’t know what happened, officers said. There was no indication that alcohol was involved, and the accident occurred on a straight-away, the patrol said.
John Barco, father of Kaylynn Barco, said the girls, who are friends from school and sports, were on their way home from a trip to Taco Bell.
A driver behind the girls’ car said they were traveling at about the speed limit and “just dropped off and went into the trees,” John Barco said.
Barco said he’s left to wonder whether Manchester may have become incapacitated by some type of medical condition.
Kaylynn Barco and Manchester, who were both juniors last year at Southington High School, have been friends since they were 5 years old and have played a variety of sports together, including softball, volleyball and basketball, John Barco said.
Kaylynn had known Becker for about three years, since the two began playing travel softball on the same team, he said. Becker graduated from Struthers High School this year.
“She was like a part of our family,” John Barco said of Manchester. “Same as Ellen.”
Wendy Davis, whose daughter Brianna attends school with Barco and Manchester, said Manchester’s death is a terrible blow.
“She was so friendly. She just had so much charisma. Funny and athletic and beautiful, just a wonderful kid,” Davis said.
John Barco said hundreds of youths from places such as Bristol, Southington, Champion and Struthers came to the hospital Tuesday to visit with his daughter. She was well enough to see them, he said.
“She’ll be OK,” he said.
Barco, who is a police officer in Geauga County, said he’s surprised to learn that the girls were not wearing seat belts. Kaylynn usually wears one, he said.
A patrol spokesman said the investigation will continue to determine what caused the accident, but one thing is clear:
“Very simply, seat belts were not used in this. Seat belts would have limited the injuries and prevented the fatal injuries,” he said.