Families of Brunswick teens move forward a year after tragic crash that killed four students

Road improvements at site start on anniversary

BRUNSWICK, Ohio - Sean Fox still feels like his younger brother, Kevin Fox, will walk through the front door of his family's Brunswick home at any moment. He needs to remind himself that the crash really happened.

"One second, I can be angry about it and sad about it. It's like bittersweet because you think about all the good times and yet, they're gone. There are no more good times," Fox said.

Monday, June 3, will mark the one-year anniversary of a horrible crash on Boston Road in Columbia Township that took the lives of four Brunswick High School students -- Kevin Fox, 18, Jeffrey Chaya, 18, Blake Bartchak, 17, and Lexi Poerner, 16. A fifth student, Julia Romito, was the only survivor.

Sean wears wrist bands every day to honor the young lives lost, including one that reads "Never Give Up," in honor of Kevin, who played hockey and rugby and made everybody smile.

"June 3 in particular, I'll probably have to keep looking at this band. Just never give up. Kevin won't want me to stop moving," he added.

Brent Bartchak keeps the memory of his brother, Blake, alive by posting a picture his younger sibling on his car's dashboard. A second picture shows Blake, Jeffrey and Lexi smiling at a Cavs game a few months before the accident.

Brent also wears the wrist bands, including one that reads, "Stay Classy," Jeffrey's favorite expression. Jeffrey and Blake were teammates on the Brunswick football team.

"I'm a soul believer that he's still with me every day. I still talk to him like he's here with me," Brent Bartchak said.

Brent also tries to make a difference by talking to the senior class and encouraging them to "get home safe," a slogan Brent and Blake adopted when they learned how to drive.

"Be aware of your surroundings when you're driving. Know the area. Know the speed limit. Know that there are dangerous areas," he tells the students.

Savana Poerner said her sister, Lexi, was a happy and pretty girl who was "a gift in her life."

She's feeling nervous about the one-year anniversary.

"The pain never goes away. You just learn to live with it. There's a hole in my heart that will never heal," Savana Poerner said.

The crash happened on the same day that Jeffrey and Kevin were set to graduate.

A Chevrolet Cavalier, driven by Jeffery Chaya, was going 69 mph when it went airborne over a sloping railroad crossing, according the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The car struck a tree and a ditch before overturning, investigators said.

As a result of the tragedy, the Ohio Department of Transportation is making improvements to that section of Boston Road. Ironically, construction will begin on Monday -- the anniversary of the crash.

The Ohio Department of Transportation will raise the grade of the roadway at the approach to the crossing, eliminating the possibility of "a "launching pad." The $608,000 project, paid through federal safety funds, was put on a fast track because of the tragedy.

"We had a lot of cooperation with local jurisdictions. Generally, a project of this nature would take two to three years of planning. It's rather unprecedented," said ODOT Spokeswoman Christine Myers.

"I feel like the road should have been fixed years ago, but I'm glad it's being fixed now so something like this doesn't happen again," said Savana Poerner.

Less than a week after the crash, flashing stop signs were installed on both sides of the railroad tracks and new signs set a 25 mph speed limit near the crossing.

St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Brunswick will hold a special mass on Monday at 7 p.m. to remember the teens.

Savana Poerner said she will be there and would like to share a special message.

'Celebrate your life and live your life to the fullest because you never know what's going to happen," she said.

Watch Bob Jones' story Friday during Live On 5.

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