NEW MANCHESTER, W.Va. - With candles and quads, friends of the three Oak Glen High School students who were killed in a car accident over the weekend gathered Monday to comfort each other over what many considered an overwhelming, inexplicable loss.
"We come here looking for answers," said the Rev. Tom Fletcher, "but we're not going to get all those answers on this side of eternity. What we're really looking for is comfort."
Fletcher, pastor of New Cumberland Family Life Center (Nazarene), offered prayers, Scripture verses and a short message to hundreds of people who gathered at the Tomlinson Run State Park pavilion to remember the three students and their grieving families.
"They all left this planet way too early," Fletcher said.
So many people attended the impromptu gathering that they overflowed into surrounding parking lots, forming little circles of support as they held candles, drank hot chocolate and reminisced.
Oak Glen students Molly Williams, Tyler Campbell and Autumn Moninger organized the event. Hancock County sheriff's deputies and reserve officers handled traffic control just yards from where Saturday's accident took the lives of Kristyn Butcher, 16, of Newell, Kaylin Rice, 16, of Chester, and John "Emmett" Snow III, 16, of New Cumberland.
The car the three teenagers were riding in collided with a New Manchester Volunteer Fire Department pumper truck that was northbound on state Route 8 on its way to a reported chimney fire.
The accident remains under investigation by the Hancock County Sheriff's Department.
Rice and Butcher were pronounced dead at the scene, while Snow succumbed to his injuries after being transported to East Liverpool City Hospital. Funeral services for Rice and Snow are scheduled for Wednesday. Butcher's service is scheduled for Thursday.
Friends and fellow students of the three wept openly at Monday night's candlelight vigil. Some stared blankly into the dark as they held their candles.
Fletcher quoted from Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear. ..."
Oak Glen senior Seth Cheuvront, huddled with Emily Bahen, 16, and McKenzie Goydich, 15, described himself as good friends with Kristyn Butcher. "She'll be missed by all of us," he said.
"She was a fun-loving person. She was always happy," Cheuvront said, noting that they enjoyed such things as boating, sled riding and swimming together.
Turning out in force for Emmett Snow, an avid quad racer, were more than 20 of his quad-riding friends.
"He was my best friend," said Colten Fryer, 16, of New Cumberland. "We rode and raced together. We hung out all the time. We were always battling."
Fryer said he and Emmett were supposed to go quad riding at the Switchback Raceway in Butler, Pa., on Sunday. He described his friend's skill level as "a 10 out of 10. ... He tried hard at everything he did. He was one of the strongest people I've ever met."
Jake Roupe, 20, of Hookstown, Pa., said he knew Emmett through the Competitive Riders of America, for whom they both raced. "He was very good," Roupe said.
The somber quad riders fellowshipped after the vigil and then left the state park in a long, noisy line.
Oak Glen students who return to school today - they had Monday off for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day - will be able to avail themselves of counseling services provided by the school district, Superintendent Suzan Smith said.
The school community is showing its support in other ways, too, including the sale of memorial T-shirts produced by Stuff with Attitude. Stephanie Mozingo, of the Stuff with Attitude store in Follansbee, said she was inspired to offer the T-shirts because of a recent tragedy in her family.
Mozingo lost her niece, Hannah Mozingo, when a natural gas explosion destroyed the girl's Follansbee home on Oct. 11, 2013. "That was my brother George's house, so I definitely take this benefit personally," she said.
Mozingo said the community outreach following the explosion was "out of this world," so she wanted to do something tangible for the families of the three Oak Glen students.
The T-shirts are being sold for $10-$7.50 of which will go to the families of the three teenagers, Mozingo said.
The T-shirts can be ordered via the Stuff with Attitude Facebook page, at Stuff with Attitude locations or by calling 304-527-7074.