Families of fatal crash victims speak out

Families of three Bellbrook High School students killed in an accident on Wagner Road early Sunday morning said the six teens in the pickup truck were on their way back from picking up one of the teens from a party.

According to the families of the victims, after picking up Julianna Hawk, 14, from the party, the six teens were in a Dodge pickup truck traveling on Wagner Road near Oleva Drive when the truck crashed into a tree. Three of the six teens: Sophie Kerrigan, 17, Skylar Kooken, 16, and Hawk were killed in the accident.

The other Sugarcreek Township residents: Ryan Whitaker, 17, Zachery Morgan, 18, and Allison Magill, 17, were taken to area hospitals to be treated for their injuries. Whitaker has been released from the hospital, according to police. Morgan is still in the hospital and in stable condition. Magill is in serious condition.

All of the girls were riding inside the extended cab of the pickup truck. The force of the collision uprooted the full-grown tree and buckled and mangled the truck. No charges have been filed as a result of the accident. Sugarcreek Twp. police said Monday they do not believe drugs or alcohol played a part in the crash.

Police and the teens’ families are piecing together the events that led to the crash.

Janet Carpenter, Sophie’s mother, said that best friends Sophie and Skylar were together at Skylar’s father’s home Saturday night when they received a call from Julianna who wanted a ride from a party in Kettering.

Sandra Lipsky, Julianna’s aunt, said it was clear from text messages on Julianna’s phone, that the high school cheerleader was uncomfortable at the party and wanted to leave.

Sophie, Skylar and the others went to pick her up.

Sugarcreek police Sgt. Mark White said the accident remains under investigation. He was unable to confirm where the teens were traveling to or from.

“Speed is obviously going to be looked at,” White said. He could not confirm what the women said about the events leading up to the accident.

Police said Monday the investigation could take a minimum of four to six months to complete.

The Greene County Coroner’s Office did not have an official cause of death for the three girls on Monday. Autopsy reports, which are routinely completed by the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, have to be completed before the cause of death can be determined, according to the coroner’s office in Greene County. An autopsy report usually takes a minimum of six to eight weeks to complete.

On Monday, family members remembered their loved ones as bright, funny and creative girls who had exciting futures.

"People always looked at her and said how beautiful she was. Sad thing about it is that I don’t think she ever knew it,” Janet Carpenter said of her 17-year-old daughter Sophie Kerrigan. “I always told her that nothing good ever happens after midnight with high school kids. She said ‘Mom, you are just worrying.”

Carpenter, Kelli Kooken, Skylar’s mother, and Sandra Lipsky, Julianna’s aunt, painted similar pictures of the evening before the girls died.

Carpenter said Sophie, the daughter of Miami Valley radio icon Steve Kerrigan, had a rough life, but still managed be a silly, fun-loving, animal lover.

Steve Kerrigan died of cancer last year and Sophie witnessed her grandfather’s death from a heart attack.

“She was so into art, so into hair fashion and design. She was looking forward to start at Aveda (Fredric’s Institute Cosmetology Schools) in Cincinnati in the fall,” Carpenter said. “Our family is really athletic. I think she felt she never was. She turned to art. “I said honey, try a million things. Find out what you like.’”

Carpenter said her daughter handed out Trick or Treat candy with her grandmother Saturday night before going to meet up with Skylar. Carpenter was in Las Vegas with her husband and mother-in-law when she received word of her daughter’s death.

“I can’t believe she is dead. I wish it was me instead,” she said.

Surrounded by family members and friends on Monday, Kelli Kooken also was finding her daughter’s death hard to fathom.

Kooken said Sklyar, a junior, loved to write was considering studying English at either Ohio University or Ohio State University. Kooken told a story about the girl helping another student who had been bullied. That student sent Kooken an email saying Syklar changed her life.

“She impacted the lives of so many people,” Kooken said of her daughter. “Skylar was a goofy kid. She would always make you laugh., but she didn’t care if you liked her or not.”

Kooken called Skylar a faithful friend. She and Sophie been virtually inseparable since they were in the fifth and sixth grades.

Kooken said her daughter often “house-hopped” and fished with the other teens in the truck, including the driver.

“She would protect her friends to the bitter end,” Kooken said. “Skylar wouldn’t want us to be angry with anybody. I know she won’t.”

Hawk was passionate about cheerleading, Lipsky said. She had been a cheerleader since third grade and was interested in pursuing a career in sports medicine. Hawk also enjoyed baking.

“Everything she learned in home ec (economics), she wanted to come home and make for me,” Lipsky said.

Hawk and Lipsky would bake cookies together. Chocolate chip was Hawk’s favorite, Lipsky said.

Hawk also loved to make people laugh, according to her aunt. She cared about people.

“She had a lot of love to give,” Lipsky said.

Bellbrook-Sugarcreek Local Schools Superintendent Keith St. Pierre said the mood at Bellbrook High School was somber Monday and attendance appeared to be lower.

Counselors, psychologists and teachers were available to talk with grieving students.

“Our thoughts go out to the families, St. Pierre said. “… We feel for them.”

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