Open Signs Of Grief Evident Around Bowling Green Campus - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

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Open Signs Of Grief Evident Around Bowling Green Campus

By JOHN SEEWER, Associated Press Writer

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (AP) - Weeping professors encouraged students to share their feelings Monday about the loss of six students killed while returning from a spring-break trip to Florida.

Some teachers just canceled classes.

"It's affecting everyone," Dana Abbott, a freshman from West Milton, said on the first day of classes after the break at Bowling Green State University. "Even if we didn't know them."

The six students, all 19, were returning from Panama City, Fla., on Friday when their minivan spun into oncoming traffic and was struck by a tractor-trailer. The crash happened on Interstate 71 near Verona, Ky., about 25 miles south of Cincinnati.

Authorities said severe winds and heavy rain may have contributed.

Five of the six lived together in a suite in Founders Hall. The sixth lived two floors above.

Killed were: Jessica Hedlund, of Perrysburg; Andrea Bakker, of Strongsville; Sara Jean McCarthy, of Brook Park; Jacqueline Ahlers, of Vandalia; and Michelle Saunders and Ryan Leigh Foss, both of Huron.

All had been studying either teaching or nursing. All were sophomores except Saunders, a freshman.

Another roommate, Susan Baughman, 19, of Strongsville, skipped the trip to go to her sister's wedding shower.

There were few open signs of grief around campus Monday. Flags were lowered to half-staff, and bouquets of flowers were being delivered to Founders, the biggest dorm on campus.

In the dorm lobby, a sign on the wall listed the names of the women.

Inside the classrooms, there were tears.

"Our teacher talked about it and then had us leave," said Sara Nobile, a freshman from Steubenville. "She was real upset."

Another told her class to go home and reflect about the lost students.

"She gave us time to talk about it, but nobody wanted to," Abbott said after her morning English class. "It was really somber."

Students returning from trips during the break say they heard about the accident before they left for home. Some heard during the drive back.

Jenna Campbell, a junior from Englewood, said her group got a phone call while they were driving through Alabama. They too had been in Panama City.

After they heard about the accident, they kept in contact with groups of Bowling Green students a few hours ahead and behind them on the road, giving each other weather reports.

"We just wanted to make sure everyone was safe," Campbell said. "We switched drivers a lot more. Nobody slept on the way home."

Authorities in Kentucky say neither alcohol nor excessive speed was suspected in the accident.

The university, with 19,000 students, was still determining whether to have a memorial service on campus.

"A lot of people are hoping there's some memorial even though they didn't know them," said Rochelle Perez, a sophomore from Youngstown.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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