Sunday, June 11, 2000

Traffic deaths stun Delhi school

Girls were on way to party as summer vacation began

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DELHI TOWNSHIP — Grief-stricken students gathered at an informal memorial service Saturday night to remember two classmates who died in a car crash Friday, the last day of school.

        Anna Destefano and Kelli Ridenour, both 13 years old and from Delhi Township, were killed and nine other teen-agers in a Jeep Grand Cherokee are recovering from injuries after a single-vehicle crash at 1:25 p.m. on Hillside Avenue, a winding and rough road.

        The students from Delhi Middle School were on their way to a pool party to celebrate the end of school.

        Principal Patty Falk joined students at the school to make signs for a memorial service this week. Counselors will be available at the school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday.

        “They were great kids from great families,” Ms. Falk said. “Our students and staff are devastated.”

  • Visitation for Kelli Ridenour will be 5-8 p.m. Tuesday at Radel Funeral Home, 650 Neeb Road, Delhi Township. The funeral will be 10 a.m. Wednesday at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Delhi Township. Memorials for Kelli Ridenour can be sent to the Shiloh United Methodist Church Youth Group, Anderson Ferry and Foley roads, Delhi Township, 45238.
  • Visitation for Anna Destefano will be 4-8 p.m. Mondayat Vitt, Stermer & Anderson Funeral Home, 4619 Delhi Road, Delhi Township. A Mass of Christian burial is 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Lawrence Church, 3680 Warsaw Ave., Price Hill.
        The accident occurred about a half hour after students were dismissed Friday. Ashley Warndorf, Anna and Kelli had left Ashley's house and were walking to a pool party when the Jeep, driven by Michelle Luhn, 16, stopped and picked up the girls, according to family and friends of the two victims.

        A woman who answered the phone at the Luhn residence Saturday afternoon said, “Under the direction of our attorney, we cannot discuss anything.”

        Delhi police continue to investigate the accident.

        Jessica Buschmann, 13, who was Kelli's best friend, said the road where the accident occurred “had a bunch of hills and twists and turns. There was a little dip in the road, that if you were going fast enough, you could probably get airborne.”

        Jessica was among a steady flow of friends who stopped by the school and crash site — where pieces of shattered glass remained — and placed flowers and two crosses at the crash site.

        Anna and Kelli would have been in the eighth grade next year. Anna was active in volleyball and basketball. “She's going to be sorely missed by her family and friends,” said Anna's uncle Kevin McQuaide. “She was a loving, caring child. She was a great athlete and was recently named most athletic girl in her school.” Kelli, who was voted the junior high representative for the youth group at Shiloh United Methodist Church in Delhi Township, would have played soccer and been a cheerleader next year.

        “She was very outgoing, and very easy to get along with,” said Kelli's father, Doug Ridenour. “She was nice to everybody. Anything that would put her around her friends she absolutely enjoyed.”

        Two of the injured — Kayla Bussard, 13, and Nicole Staples, 12 — remained in fair condition at Children's Hospital Medical Center on Saturday. In addition to the driver, six others — Jarred Bellew, 17; Amanda Hensley, 14; Heather Hensley, 12; and Ashley Kannenberg, Ashley Warndorf and Amanda Luhn, all 13 — were treated and released from area hospitals.

        The accident occurred the same day as 7-year-old twin girls and their mother were crushed to death in Fairfield Township when a 60,000-pound Rumpke waste truck rear-ended a car on Ohio 4 about 10:35 a.m. The 3-year-old nephew of the mother remained in critical condition Saturday night at Childrens Hospital Medical Center.

        The truck rammed into the rear of a car as both vehicles approached the intersection of Ohio 4 and Creekside Drive. Lucy Davis, 60, of Monroe, was driving south on Ohio 4 with her adopted 7-year-old twins — Demetria and Tambra — in the back and her nephew in the front seat of her 1990 Plymouth Acclaim.

        Police said she slowed or stopped for a newly installed yellow-flashing traffic light at Creekside.

        The driver of the truck, Michael A. Vail, 35, of the 3500 block of Stahlheber Road in Butler County, has not been charged.


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