Mike Martindale and Mark Hicks / The Detroit News
Orion Township — When three teen girls were riding home last week, they were as jubilant as usual.
Ashley Felder and twins Sy’mone Analyse Nicole Johnson and Brianna Marie Latreese Johnson, all 14, were returning from Oxford High School, where two of the girls were on a cheerleading squad.
In the car, “they were laughing and joking, having fun,” said Robert Elam, the boyfriend of the twins’ mother, who drove them home. “They were outgoing girls … liked to have a good time.”
That would change days later.
All three girls died early Monday after piling into a 2005 Toyota for a ride to a school in blowing snow.
As Felder’s mother, Barbara, 39, headed north on Joslyn near Lake Sixteen about 7 a.m., she apparently lost control of the vehicle and slid into the southbound lanes and into the path of a 2002 GMC Sierra pickup. The crash killed all three girls. “The snow was blowing almost to a whiteout for a period this morning,” said Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe, who was in the area around the time of the crash.
“There’s no question this was weather-related.”
Ashley Felder was sitting in the passenger seat of the Toyota and was pronounced dead at the scene. The twins, both in the rear seat, were pronounced dead at Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital.
Barbara Felder was hospitalized in stable condition Monday night with unspecified injuries.
The pickup’s driver, a 40-year-old Lake Orion man, wasn’t hurt in the crash. The Felders were wearing seat belts; the Johnson girls were not, according to investigators.
Oxford High Principal Mike Schweig said grief counselors were being made available to the school’s 1,380 students — 340 of them freshmen, like the victims.
“We’ve never had anything like this before, not of this magnitude,” said Schweig. “It is horrible.”
“The students have only been here since September, and I don’t know that they’ve been in a lot of activities, but there has been a great outpouring of students we’ve helped through the grieving process,” he said.
“For the limited time they were here, they got to know a lot of kids. It’s not the way you want to find out about how much kids care about you, but it was nice to see.”