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STUNNED AND SHAKEN



Published: Tue, June 12, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.

Deadly accident in Struthers leaves mother grieving

  Struthers Fatal Accident

An accident in Struthers claimed one life and injured several others. Ashley Beach, who was one of the first people at the scene of the accident, recalls the night it happened.

An accident in Struthers claimed one life and injured several others. Ashley Beach, who was one of the first people at the scene of the accident, recalls the night it happened.

photo

Location in which a minivan lost control and flipped over, throwing its passengers into the road.

By jeanne starmack

starmack@vindy.com

struthers

Tyrell Freeman graduated from Campbell Memorial High School on Thursday, and he already was enrolled at Youngstown State University.

His mother said Freeman, 18, and the father of a 1-year-old son named Elijah, wanted to study engineering.

In a horrific accident late Sunday evening, however, Freeman’s dream died when he did.

The accident, in which police say speed played a role, left neighbors near the site on State Route 616 stunned and shaken.

Freeman’s mother grieved Monday morning at her home on Penahle Avenue in Campbell. Five other young men lived through the accident, she said. Why not her son?

All of the other accident victims have been released from St. Elizabeth Health Center except for one. LaVail R. LeFlore, 16, of West Chalmers Avenue in Youngstown remained in critical condition Monday night, the hospital said. Robert A. Thompkins, 18, of Campbell was treated and released. Released Monday were George E. LeFlore Jr., 17, of West Chalmers Avenue in Youngstown; Gerald L. Ruffin Jr., 21, also of West Chalmers Avenue; and Aaron M. Page, 18, of Chatham Lane in Youngstown.

The accident occurred at 10:47 p.m. along a stretch of road that can be tricky at least, treacherous at most, neighbors said.

There is a sharp bend in that section of Route 616, which is called North Bridge Street where it descends down a steep hill to state Route 289. Other serious accidents have happened there, said Mark Keil, who lives at the intersection of Highland Avenue and North Bridge.

But Sunday night’s wreck was particularly ugly. “You wish you could turn back time,” Keil said.

The six young men were coming from a church festival in Campbell to play basketball at the Highland Center, said Struthers Police Chief Tim Roddy. They went down the hill too fast in a minivan that may have had bad brakes, police and witnesses said. It hit a curb, and the driver, Thompkins, lost control. Roddy said charges are pending against Thompkins. Police are waiting for the results of a blood test he was given at the hospital, though Roddy said there was no indication drugs or alcohol played a part in the tragedy.

Keil was asleep when he heard the first impact.

“I jumped up,” he said. “I knew what had happened.”

He was one of the first people there.

A block down Highland, Ashley Beach was sitting on her porch with a friend.

“At first I didn’t think anything when I heard the brakes screech,” Beach said. “Then I heard a boom, and I ran and saw the car flip,” she said.

“It looked like a horror movie,” said Keil. “The first flip went end-over-end. Then it rolled repeatedly down the hill, and they were all thrown out.”

Struthers Police reported that at least two passengers were ejected.

Keil and Beach concurred, though, that had anyone been left in the minivan, they could not have gotten out on their own.

“The doors were crumpled, the van was crumpled up pretty good,” Keil said. “No one got out on their own.”

Keil said one victim went to a woman’s porch and she tended to him.

Two more victims wandered the wreckage, screaming for help and for their friends.

Keil went to Freeman, who was lying on the side of the road. Beach tended to one of the victims who was wandering.

“He came to me and asked me what the date was, and was he dreaming,” she said. “I asked him, ‘Did you call your mother,’ because I’m a mom, and he didn’t know where his phone was.”

Beach let him use her phone. She was looking for flowers late Monday morning to place near the accident site.

“I didn’t sleep last night,” she said. “My heart hurt. My stomach hurt.”

Freeman’s mother, Lisa Wilkins, said late Monday morning she did not yet know what the funeral arrangements would be for her son.

She stood on her porch and clutched a laminated folder. Inside was a resume Freeman had prepared for colleges.

“I am writing to express my interest in your prestigious college,” he begins.

“My qualifications include I am very hard working,” he continues. “I strive to keep my grades high.”

“I am self-motivated. I have great communication skills. I am a good leader.”

In a reference letter, Marsha Gozur, a library paraprofessional at Campbell High School, called him courteous, thoughtful and respectful.

“His strength is his extraordinary sense of responsibility,” she wrote.

He lettered in track, was on the varsity basketball team and was a Rescue Mission volunteer.

“He was a very intelligent young man,” said high-school principal Jackie Hampton. “He just graduated Thursday, and now Monday morning, he’s gone.”


Comments

1whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Sad stuff, Good Lord gives and the Good Lord will take away....

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2atownreader(34 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Thoughts and prayers to all families involved. This dangerous curve should have been rectified long ago. No excuse for no warning lights or signs. A horrible loss.

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3EyesandEars(1 comment)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

That good lord of yours doesn't sound so good to me whitesabbath.

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4mudduck(31 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

very sad. tragic loss at young age. @atownreader there are BOTH signs and warning lights. this dangerous curve was rectified about ten years ago. stay in atown speed kills and this is proof.

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5kensgirl(634 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

EyesandEars - Did you register on this site just so you could criticize our Lord? What a nasty thing to say at a sad time such as this. Take your one comment and register it at "Haters R Us".

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6binx(81 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

I don't think that a flashing light will make someone slow down... this is unfortunate, but as the article said, it is a hard area for accidents. Police need to enforce this road possibly a little bit in the next few weeks, people fly up and down that road. It's 25 but people go about 50, believe me, I got a speeding ticket coming down that hill after getting clocked by a passing officer, needless to say, I drive 25 and don't care if people ride my bumper. And that curve is scary, when school is in session that is a bus stop and at times there are 8-10 kids out there, imagine flying around that corner and missing that turn???

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7walter_sobchak(1949 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

This stretch has always been a problem. It was probably safer before the improvements were made since the curves were so sharp and short, it was difficult to pick up any speed. The problem, of course, were cars and trucks going into houses on the hill. Whatever... every year, parents hope and pray that their children will survive the months of May and June due to the folly of youth.

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8hellokitty(161 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Heartfelt best wishes for the survivors, who will forever be traumatized, and deepest condolences to Tyrell and all who loved him. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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9redeye1(4629 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

What a shame, I will pray for those involved. and their families

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10AFgrad(11 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Very sad. This section of road has always been dangerous. Young drivers don't always respect it and bad things can happen. It was even more dangerous before the realignment a few years back. It cut the grade of the hill. It's not as steep as it had been.

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11southsidedave(4807 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Heartbreaking story...

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12AnotherAverageCitizen(1175 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

What a sad story.

When just a week ago 4 students lost their lives in Brunswick. It is sad to hear this same story every May and June.

My heart goes out to all the family and reinds. All the fellow grads will remember this for ever. Hopefully many will learn from this and slow down.

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13Aware(221 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

This is so sad. That hill is perfectly manageable even in bad weather. It's maintained very well, but it's 25mph for a reason. Even slightly over would not be a problem. What a shame this happened to such young lives.

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