State Police Lt. Brent Davison discusses the wreckage following a Nov. 15 accident that claimed the lives of four teenagers.
SCHUYLER FALLS — The lives of four teenagers were lost following a motor vehicle accident during the early evening hours Nov. 15.
During a press conference at the New York State Police barracks in Plattsburgh Nov. 16, it was revealed Brandon Rennert, 17, Peru; Samantha Donah, 17, Plattsburgh; Dat T. Ong, 17, Vietnam; and Chu Xiong, 18, China; were killed as a result of an accident on Peasleeville Road.
Lt. Brent M. Davison stated an ongoing investigation has so far revealed Rennert — whom state police noted was formally known as Brandon Sorrell — was reportedly operating a 1997 Mercury Sable west on a straight section of Peasleeville Road at approximately 4:45 p.m. Nov. 15 with Donah as his passenger. The vehicle struck Ong and Xiong, who were said to be walking along the shoulder of the road on their way to a nearby store.
“What we know is the Sable struck two pedestrians, went off the road, struck an earth embankment and burst into flames,” said Davison.
Clinton County Coroner David F. Donah pronounced all four teenagers dead at the scene. The bodies of the victims were burned so that forensic evidence was necessary to identify them, the lieutenant added. Autopsies were scheduled to be performed at CVPH Medical Center, Plattsburgh, Nov. 16.
Davison said he wouldn’t speculate as to whether speed, alcohol consumption or the use of a cell phone were contributing factors in the crash, though noted he didn’t feel it was likely Rennert was under the influence.
Peru, Beekmantown and Seton Catholic central schools all made grief counselors available to students the day following the accident, with administrators stating they understood there would be a need for students to discuss their feelings.
“We know there are families, there are children, there are adults facing some difficult matters,” said A. Paul Scott, interim superintendent of the Peru Central School District where Rennert was a student. “It is a sad day.”
Catherine Russell, principal of Seton Catholic Central School, where Ong and Xiong were enrolled as foreign exchange students, also expressed her regret in a statement.
“Seton Catholic is mourning the loss of two students as well as the loss of the two students from neighboring schools. This is a small area and this tragedy touches everyone,” stated Russell.
Scott A. Amo, superintendent of the Beekmantown Central School District where Donah was a student, was saddened by the news of her death and the three others lost in the crash.
“It’s a tragic loss of life,” said Amo, adding school staff has “been wonderful arranging for [grief counseling] with our school counselors, school psychologists, and staff members.”
Additionally, students at Beekmantown are writing condolences and other messages on parchment paper as part of the grieving process.