Tuesday, February 23, 2010

UPDATE: Police officially confirm ID of two girls

A continuing update on a story we ran on Monday regarding the three teens killed by a train in Florida.

Melbourne, Florida police now confirm that eighth-graders Jennifer Reichert and Ciara Lemn (pictured respectively) were two of the three girls killed in Saturday’s train tragedy. Police are working with the Brevard County Medical Examiner’s office to positively identify the third girl.

The victims of Saturday’s train crash bring the total to five for students lost in tragedy this school year at Southwest Middle School.

“Five students in one year makes this extremely emotional for the staff and students at Southwest,” Brevard County School Board Chairwoman Amy Kneessy said. “We need to do something more for the Southwest community in general.... These were such young children with their whole lives ahead of them. It just breaks my heart.”

Extra grief counselors have been brought to the school to council students and staff, Kneessy said. News trucks also swarmed the campus this morning and many senior district staff members are visiting the school.

The mother of one girl killed in Saturday night's tragic train crash said her daughter, 14-year-old Ciara Malia Lemn, "was a beautiful girl."

Brenda Bentley and her fiance, Kenneth McCary, of Palm Bay, said their minds were reeling hours after police told them Ciara and her friends were crossing a railroad bridge over Melbourne's Crane Creek when they were struck and killed by a southbound freight train. A fourth teen, a boyfriend of one of the girls, escaped the train.

"We're just shocked," said McCary. "It doesn't seem real."

A second girl was identified as 15-year-old Jennifer Reichert by a man at the family home in Palm Bay and an uncle, who talked to the Associated Press.

The third girl killed and the boy who survived are not being identified pending confirmation by family or authorities.

"We think we know who they all are but we're going to use dental records for each and every one of them," said Melbourne Police Lt. Curt Barger, adding that the medical examiner would be able to confirm the identities today.

The bodies of all three girls were found on the train tracks. Ciara and Jennifer were students at Southwest Middle School in Palm Bay. A Brevard Public Schools spokeswoman said grief counselors would be on hand today.

How and why the teens were killed was the focus of Melbourne police and Florida East Coast Railway authorities. They spent Sunday taking measurements at the scene and investigating the deaths, which marked the first railway fatality in more than 10 years of someone under 15 years old in Brevard County.

Barger said the teens' parents had dropped them off at a mall Saturday. He said they then took a public bus to downtown Melbourne, where they were hanging out.

More than 10 years ago, a 12-year-old Melbourne girl failed to outrun a Florida East Coast Railway train as it crossed a bridge over the Eau Gallie River.

UPDATE: All the names have now been released. Wraya Hadley (14) was the third victim killed by a train while walking on a bridge with her friends.

On the Web:
Wraya Hadley's Myspace pages: 1, 2. Her blog
Jennifer Reichert's Obituary page; Twitter page; Myspace page.
The male teen who survived: his Myspace page.

Related Stories:
News4 Jacksonville
WKMG Channel 6 News
May 2009 train death in Melbourne, Florida
Downtown Melbourne, Florida Facebook

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