Friday, October 17, 2003

Oxford school mourns another

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Benjamin J. Reece

HANOVER TWP. - Shellie Fox watched Thursday as mourning teenagers gathered near the site of a car crash that left one 16-year-old boy dead and another seriously injured.

"I just pray they learn from their friends," said Fox from her Decamp Road home.

Benjamin J. Reece was killed and his passenger, Kyle McClellan, was seriously injured in a high-speed crash near Fox's house Wednesday evening - a little over a month after Benjamin got his driver's license, police said.

"We don't want to point fingers, but we have a youthful, inexperienced driver, going at a high rate of speed. It proved to be a very deadly combination, with very tragic repercussions for their family and friends," said Butler County Sheriff's Capt. G. Michael Grimes.

On Thursday, Kyle remained in serious condition at Miami Valley Hospital, in Dayton, where Benjamin was pronounced dead.

Benjamin was a junior at Talawanda High School and was an in-line skating buddy of schoolmate Jason Farthing, 18, who died in an Oct. 1 car crash.

"This has been an incredibly difficult time for our young people. ... They've been preoccupied with losses, tragedies and grieving," Talawanda principal David Isaacs said Thursday, while grief counselors were again on duty. "It has been a horrible day for teachers and staff. It has been a horrible, horrible year."

Since January of this year, 27 people have died in crashes on Butler County roads, eight involving victims 18 or younger.

"There are too many young people out there losing their lives," said Merrill Barrick, director of the Greater Hamilton Safety Council.

She hopes "Street Smarts," a program set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Northgate Mall, can help give young drivers skills and knowledge to prevent more tragedies.

In Wednesday's crash, neither teen was wearing a seat belt. Both were thrown from Benjamin's 2002 Honda Civic as it rolled and flipped repeatedly - indicating its speed exceeded Decamp Road's 55-mph limit, Grimes said.

Police are also investigating two other possible factors: alcohol, and hill-hopping, Grimes said.

Sue Kiesewetter contributed.


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