Teen tragedy: 5 die in fiery collision with tanker truck in Texas

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 8:00am

At the intersection of the two country roads, charred debris lies strewn haphazardly. The earth around it is scorched for yards around.

It is here, in this corner of Dumas, Texas, that a sports utility vehicle slammed into a gas tanker Sunday afternoon. The tanker's flammable cargo sent both vehicles up in flames, seriously injuring the truck driver and killing all five passengers in the Chevy SUV.

All of those who perished were teenagers.

The crash, coupled with another tragic one in Warren, Ohio, the same day, highlighted yet again how motor vehicle wrecks continue to be the number one killer of youths in the United States.

Such accidents took the lives of about a quarter of 15 to 24 year olds who died in 2010, according to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They significantly outpaced the other top culprits: firearm wounds, homicides, suicides and accidental poisonings.

A fatal mistake

It wasn't quite clear where the teens were headed in the SUV when, authorities say, the driver, 16-year-old Jacob Paul Stipe, decided to ignore a stop sign.

It was a fateful mistake.

As the SUV entered the intersection, an oncoming truck smashed into its passenger side, CNN affiliate KFDA reported, quoting authorities.

Stipe died at the scene. So did the four passengers with him: October Dawn Roys, 17; Elizabeth Kay Roys, 15; Derrek Lee Hager, 17; and Christopher Lee Moore, 17.

The truck driver, Ezequel Melecio Garcia, was airlifted to a hospital burn unit in Lubbock.

Best of friends

The teens were inseparable, said Star Tovar, assistant manager at the local Dairy Queen.

"It was always them together, all five of them always together," she told CNN affiliate KVII.

Chris was a new member of the clique, who had recently moved to the area.

Dawn and October, who went by the nickname Toby, were sisters. October leaves behind a daughter who will be 1 soon.

Their parents, Robert and Sheryl Roys, wept as they spoke to the affiliate.

"They changed hair color every month," Robert Roys reminisced, smiling for a moment.

"It's going to be hard not having them around because they were there all the time. I love them with all my heart and they'll always be here, in my heart," added his wife, Sheryl.

Grief in Ohio

Just hours earlier, six teenagers were killed in Warren, Ohio, when their overcrowded SUV struck a guard rail and flipped over into a pond.

Eight teenagers had crammed into the Honda Passport that was later reported stolen. It was built to seat five. Only two of the passengers got out alive.

Those who died were not wearing seat belts, authorities said.

The teenagers were speeding down a two-lane northeastern Ohio road, authorities say.

The exact cause seems a mystery.

Most of the victims were even younger than those in the Texas crash.

Alexis Cayson, 19, was behind the wheel, the highway patrol said.

Those who died alongside her were: Andrique Bennett, 14; Kirklan M. Behner, 15; Daylan Ray, 15; Brandon A. Murray, 14; and Ramone M. White, 15. All were from Warren.

Two of the injured occupants managed to escape by breaking a rear window in the submerged vehicle, emerging from the pond, and then running about a quarter mile to a nearby home to call 911, Holt said.

Weather was not a factor, said Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Brian Holt. He called the accident the deadliest his county's history -- and the worst in Ohio in at least three years.

'It's numbing'

Monday night, mourners held a vigil by the guard rail by a makeshift memorial of teddy bears and a cross.

They released helium balloons into the air to commemorate the dead.

"It's numbing. It's confusing. It's hurtful," said Charlene Blackwell with tears in her eyes. She lost her nephew Ramone White. He was at her home daily, she said.

Grief counselors visited local schools Monday to help students and staff with the emotional aftermath.

Ashia Cayson said she wants others to learn from the shock of losing her sister.

"Pick up the phone and call your siblings, your family and tell them you love them," she said. "You never know what can happen. Tomorrow is not promised to anybody."

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