By Ed Runyan
Warren Fire Chief Ken Nussle said tests show the water into which a sport utility vehicle flipped March 10 along Niles Warren River Road, drowning six teens, doesn’t contain dangerous chemicals — despite fears that it does.
Nussle said a lab test on the water shows it contains no carcinogens, metals or other hazards, despite its location not far from the former RG Steel complex on Pine Street Southeast.
“It’s nothing more than pond or swamp water,” Nussle said, adding that the water that came out of the victims’ lungs was dark in color.
Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Trumbull County coroner, said he would not describe the water found in the lungs of the victims to be any different from other drowning victims, though he did find grass in one victim.
The teens were among eight youths traveling south on Pine Avenue Southeast when their vehicle hit a guardrail and flipped into the pond.
The driver, Alexis Cayson, 19, and five boys died. They are Andrique Bennett, 14; Kirklan Behner, 15; Brandon Murray, 14; Ramone White, 15; and Daylan Ray, 15.
Firefighters arrived to the scene of the accident about a mile south of downtown 20 to 25 minutes after the 6:56 a.m. crash.
Firefighters in wetsuits went into the pond and pulled five of the six victims out through a car door. The sixth victim was found under the car.
Attempts were made to resuscitate the victims, but none survived. Their deaths later were ruled accidental from drowning.
Dr. Germaniuk said individuals who don’t get oxygen because of drowning are generally dead in about four minutes, though first responders should always attempt to revive someone even much after that length of time has elapsed.
Nussle said the wetsuits his firefighters wear don’t cover the firefighters’ heads, so the rescue work was done with their heads above the 5-foot-deep water.
Afterward, Nussle said he wanted to know how dangerous the water was for the “peace of mind” of the firefighters in the water.
There were concerns because of the possibility that potentially dangerous runoff water from the mill could be in the pond, Nussle said.
Concerns about the pond also may have prevented several members of the Kimble family of Burton Street Southeast from attempting a rescue of their own.
At 7:07 a.m., Jacqueline Kimble called 911 to say that Henry and Lewis were at her house, bloody and muddy, and asked 911 to send an ambulance to her house because Brian K. Henry, 18, and Asher Lewis, 15, had been “in an accident around Pine Street.”
It took awhile before the 911 operator learned that the accident involved other people still trapped in the car. Firefighters were dispatched at 7:13 a.m.
Henry and Lewis had both been knocked unconscious in the car but woke up when the cold water started to fill up the car. They escaped by breaking a car window and ran four-tenths of a mile to Kimble’s house for help.
During an interview this week at 1632 Burton St., a young man who refused to identify himself described what he saw, heard and did when Henry and Lewis came to the house seeking help after escaping from the SUV.
The man told The Vindicator that Henry told him, “They’re all dead,” which caused the man to ask “Who?”
Henry told him two names: Alexis Cayson, 19, the driver; and Andrique “Butter” Bennett, 14. The man said he knew both people.
Hearing this, the man said he, his brother and his cousin immediately left the house and went directly to the pond.
When they got there, three workers from Stericycle, a factory next to the pond, were there but no police officers or firefighters.
The man said he considered going into the pond to attempt a rescue, but one of the Stericycle employees warned him not to.
“The guy said, ‘You all go in that water, you’re going to die. Nobody could live under the water.’” The man said it was clear to him that the men were telling him the pond was polluted, not just cold.
“I was surprised nobody cleaned it out,” the man said of the pond.