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Teen killed by suspected drunk driver remembered: ‘Tricia would just light up the room’

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AKRON, Ohio -- Family and friends of 17-year-old Tricia Powell are remembering her as vivacious and energetic after she was killed by a suspected drunk driver.

"Tricia would just light up the room. She was like the most talkative kid you would ever meet, but in a way that you'd enjoy it," Tricia's aunt, Kerrie Flight, said. "She loved music, art, played in band, orchestra. I mean, you name it and she had her hand in it."

The Ellet High School Junior had finished last-minute Easter shopping at Walmart with family and was heading home around 2:15 a.m. Sunday, according to Flight.

Powell texted her mother that her car had overheated and she pulled to the side of I-76 eastbound just past the Route 8 interchange.

Police said Powell had her car's hazard lights on when a Chevy Equinox SUV, driven by a 63-year-old Tallmadge man, rear-ended the vehicle, killing her. According to investigators, the driver of the SUV was intoxicated. He was taken to Akron City Hospital and expected to survive but had not yet been identified or charged, pending toxicology testing, police said.

"Everyone's worst nightmare, something you wouldn't wish on anyone," Flight said, recalling her reaction when she heard what happened to Powell. "I didn't know grief could ever make you physically feel sick."

Ellet High School, which is on spring break this week, brought in counselors to meet with grieving classmates.

"Her energy was contagious; she just had a positive vibe. She was very proud to attend Ellet," Principal Michelle Marquess-Kearns said. "She just had a real glow about her."

Powell was heavily involved in school activities, including drama club, and she played clarinet and saxophone in the school band and violin in the school orchestra, according to school administrators. Her voice could be heard during morning announcements.

"As terrible as this is, I think it's a very real lesson that the kids are going to keep with them their whole life," instrumental music teacher Adam Grom said. "They'll be our age remembering Tricia and how she died."

Powell's family said she planned to attend Kent State University and hoped to one day open a coffee shop.

"It's just sad, because she was old enough to see the person she was becoming, so you saw this whole future in front of her, and now she doesn't have it," Flight said.

The family has set up a fund to assist with funeral expenses. Donations to the Patricia (Tricia) Powell Memorial Fund can be made at any FirstMerit Bank branch location.

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