Hundreds Hold Vigil to Remember 15-Year-Old Killed in Crash

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RAVENNA, Ohio--Hundreds gathered outside of First Church of the Nazarene in Ravenna for a special vigil to remember Sierra Thornton.

The 15-year-old, just learning to drive, was killed when a train hit the car she was driving, with her family inside.

Sierra had only gotten yards away from her home, with her father and four sisters inside the family's SUV, when they were struck by the train on Sunday.

Many took turns sharing fond memories of her at Monday night's vigil.

"She was a kind soul who cared for others. She loved her sisters with all her heart like she was their little mother hen,” said a member of the Church where Sierra went.

"I for one am praising the Lord that there are five survivors of this accident. And it's a small glimmer of hope that maybe some of us aren't ready to proclaim or accept. But, I'll tell you what, there's a lot to be thankful for,” said Pastor Tracy Ogden Johnson.

"Horrible, like, everybody misses her," said Ravenna High School junior, Sharlene Joseph.

It was a tough Monday for students at Ravenna High, as they dealt with the death of their classmate.

"I knew that she was like a loving, caring person and everybody loved her; she loved everybody; she was there for everybody," said Joseph, who said her best friend is Sierra's 14-year-old sister, Katlyn.

Sierra had just received her learner's driving permit. Investigators said she was taking her father and four sisters out for a drive around 6:00 Sunday evening.

She was trying to cross railroad tracks on a private drive, near South Prospect Street, within site of her home in Ravenna Township.

"We believe she got onto the tracks; her dad saw the train; and she got into a panic," said Portage County Sheriff David Doak.

The 2005 Dodge SUV was struck by the train, flipped upside down and crushed.

Sierra was killed. Her father, who was in the passenger seat, suffered minor injuries.

Her four sisters, who range from age seven to 14, were also injured. They were riding in the back seat.

"It's really far-reaching with two of the siblings in our elementary schools, one at the middle school and then another sibling at the high school. It's just devastating all across the school district as well as the community and Ravenna is a close-knit community, so everybody's feeling the pain right now," said Ravenna school superintendent Dennis Honkala.

The crossing where the crash happened is a private crossing, serving a road with three homes. There are no gates or lights, but there is a stop sign. A supervisor with Norfolk Southern Railroad told FOX 8 that the train conductor did blow his horn.

Ravenna High School provided grief counselors for students and observed a moment of silence for Sierra and her family.

"A good family, Sierra's a good student, quiet student. She was involved in track as well as with the yearbook and all the other siblings are nice girls and well-liked by their peers as well as the teachers and just a good family and good people to be around," said Honkala.

Two of Sierra's sisters, 14-year-old Katlyn and 12-year-old Juliana, were still being treated at Akron Children's Hospital Monday evening.

Her father and other two sisters were treated for their injuries and released.

The superintendent said calling hours for Sierra are being planned to take place at the high school on Thursday.

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