It’s a proud and exciting day for any 16-year-old, and Jaylynn Rigio was no different. He wanted the world to know.
“I got my license yesterday,” he posted on his Facebook page on April 12. It was accompanied by a close-up photo of his license lying on his wallet.
Yesterday – only two months after that post – Rigio piled four of his Johnstown-area friends into his grandmother’s 2003 Mitsubishi Diamante. It was a muggy June afternoon and they were headed for a swim at a nearby Licking County creek.
Troopers from the Granville post of the State Highway Patrol say Rigio lost control of the car about noon, swerving off a deep berm on the right side of Hardscrabble Road outside of Johnstown.
He apparently pulled hard to the left – too hard – and went off the road again on the left side. Trying to steer the car back onto the road, Rigio flipped it onto its side and smashed, top first, into a large maple tree.
The force of the impact tore the four-door sedan in half, with the back of the car whipping into a farmhouse yard and the front of the car spinning back out into the road. The contents of the car — a silver link necklace, a cellphone case, a flip-flop — were scattered all over.
“By the damage, it looks like they were traveling at a high rate of speed,” said Sgt. Jeff Dallas of the Granville post of the State Highway Patrol. “Extremely high.”
Rigio’s three backseat passengers — Michael Hoskinson, 17, and Linzie Bell and Cheyenne Spurgeon, both 15 — were dead by the time authorities arrived.
Rigio was flown to Nationwide Children’s Hospital; his front-seat passenger, Ashton Cody, 16, was taken to OhioHealth Grant Medical Center. Last night, hospital personnel wouldn’t release their conditions. They shouldn’t have all been in the car together. Ohio law prohibits a 16-year-old driver from transporting more than one passenger unless a parent is in the vehicle.
The crash sent shockwaves through the Licking County community of Johnstown.
“This is a very tight-knit community,” said Johnstown-Monroe Superintendent Dale Dickson. “It’s hit everybody very hard.”
All five youths had attended Johnstown schools at some point. Bell, Cody and Spurgeon now attend other area schools, and Hoskinson recently graduated from Johnstown.
“They’re all our children,” said Dickson. “They’re our most precious gift. It’s tough to lose them. I can’t imagine what these parents are going through.”
A resident of Hardscrabble Road, who asked not to be identified, said she heard the car pass their farmhouse.
“I saw it going like this,” she said, moving her arms back and forth to emulate the car’s desperate swerves. “He just lost control and couldn’t recover.”
She said that one of the boys who survived – she wasn’t sure which one – walked dazed from the crash and up the road toward her.
“He walked almost to the house,” more than 100 yards from the crash site, she said, “but he was disoriented. Someone picked him up and he was taken away in an ambulance.”
“It looked like they all were partially ejected,” Dallas, of the Highway Patrol, said. “I would assume preliminarily that they were not seat-belted.”
Johnstown-Monroe will open its doors this morning for grief counseling. Counselors will be on hand from 9 to 11 a.m. in the high school’s media center.
By Eric Lyttle - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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