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Four teens die in car crash

June 20, 1998

by RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

enlargement

Teen car crash photo

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Four Pennsylvania teenagers were killed Friday afternoon when their car skidded sideways into a tree with such force that four of the five people inside were thrown out, including one who landed 50 feet away, said Pennsylvania State Police.

The passenger who wasn't thrown from the car, Erin Cohen, 14, address unknown, was flown to York Hospital in York, Pa., where she was listed in satisfactory condition Friday night.

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Three of the teens were pronounced dead at the scene, including:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Tiarra May Miller, 19, of 4752 Fort Loudon Road, Mercersburg, identified as the driver of the 1990 Mercury Topaz.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Anthony Todd Kerlin, 16, of 15997 Mountain Green Road, Spring Run, Pa.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* " NATURALSIZEFLAG="0" ALIGN="BOTTOM"> Ryan Bender, 17, of Lewistown, Pa., in Mifflin County, a cousin of Kerlin. Officials believe they died instantly.

Harry Double, 14, of 3599 Lemar Road, Mercersburg, died at 4:23 p.m. at Washington County Hospital.

Double and Cohen were foster children living with Miller's parents, according to Jeffrey Conner, chief deputy coroner for Franklin County. The car was registered to Star Miller, Tiarra Miller's mother, Conner said.

The accident occurred around 2:15 p.m. on Pa. 416 about three miles south of Pa. 16.

The car was southbound at a high rate of speed. It crested a hill, went airborne and bottomed out when it landed on the road causing Miller to lose control, police said.

Cohen was wearing a shoulder belt, police said. Miller was wearing a shoulder belt, but no lap belt, police said. The others were not wearing seat belts, police said.

No autopsies were planned, Conner said.

The force of the crash against the pine tree sent the trunk lid of the Mercury more than 100 feet away. The car's spare tire went even farther and the exhaust system was ripped from the undercarriage.

The bodies of the victims who died at the scene were left on the ground where they landed for more than three hours before they were removed by the coroner's office.

Conner said state police investigators want such scenes left untouched while they attempt to reconstruct the accident.

Joseph Miller, Tiarra Miller's father, came to the scene and identified her body and several of the others, police said.

Joseph Miller declined to comment. Other family members could not be reached.

Tiarra Miller was a 1997 graduate of James Buchanan High School near Mercersburg. Kerlin completed his junior year in June. Double was a student at James Buchanan Middle School.

John Lum, a social studies teacher at James Buchanan High School, remembered Miller as a caring, thoughtful student. "She was just a really neat kid," he said.

Fred Wagner, the high school band director, called Miller "a nice kid." She played trumpet in the band for two years and sang in the chorus for four years, he said.

Kerlin was on the school swim team. Swim Coach Jamie Bloom described him as a polite, nice kid who loved to swim. "He did whatever we told him to do," Bloom said.

Kerlin competed in the district championships for the past two years and was a member of the 200-yard freestyle relay team that held the school record, she said. As a senior he probably would have been a captain on the team this year, Bloom said.

Staff Writer Guy Fletcher contributed to this story.

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