Community gathers to remember teens killed in highway crash - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Community gathers to remember teens killed in highway crash

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16-year-old Annmarie "Annie" Olender and 14-year-old Olivia Fusco were killed in a crash on I-84 in Southington Tuesday (submitted) 16-year-old Annmarie "Annie" Olender and 14-year-old Olivia Fusco were killed in a crash on I-84 in Southington Tuesday (submitted)
Two people were killed in rollover crash on I-84 in Southington. (WFSB) Two people were killed in rollover crash on I-84 in Southington. (WFSB)

The town of Southington is coping with the deaths of two crash victims.

State police identified the victims as 16-year-old Annmarie "Annie" Olender and 14-year-old Olivia Fusco.

Troopers said their vehicle was traveling in the left lane of Interstate-84 east just before exit 32 when it left the roadway, struck a wire rope guide and went down an embankment. From there, it overturned and struck a tree.

School officials confirmed to Eyewitness News that counselors will be available at Southington High School from Wednesday through Friday.

"We learned late Tuesday that we lost two young members of our community and our Southington Public Schools family in a tragic accident," said Superintendent Timothy F. Connellan in a letter. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of these two students and we grieve with them for their loss."

Connellan said in addition to the high school, services will be available a the Southington Municipal Center through Youth Services from 10 a.m. through 3 p.m.

He said counselors, social workers and psychologists will be available for students, parents and staff members.

Connellan said Southington High School students held a vigil from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the school's softball field.

A second vigil was planned for Recreation Park at 8 p.m., but was canceled after organizers learned of the one at Southington High School.

On Wednesday, Annie Olender was described as a bright-eyed, spontaneous, happy and outgoing 16-year-old who would be going into her junior year at Southington High School this fall.

"She was an angel. I lost my little girl," said the teens mother Angelina Olender, who said she talked to her daughter just 20 minutes before the crash.

The crash happened around 3:30 p.m. It closed the left and center lanes on the eastbound sound of the highway.

Both victims were pronounced dead on the scene.

"It's really upsetting knowing one of our best friends is no longer with us and I can't see her anymore," said Tori Waiksnoris of Southington.

Annie had three brothers and was a softball player, and played catcher and center field. She would also umpire for little league.

Friends said Olivia Fusco was going into her freshman year this fall.

Close friend Anna Zampi said she saw Olivia Fusco just one day before she was killed.

"She had a bubbly personality and was always smiling and laughing about random things," Zampi said.

Angelina Olender said her daughter did not have her permission to drive the car on Tuesday.

"It devastates the whole family but I also want to talk about the other family - there was another life lost at the same time. And it's hurts and I"m sure they are hurting," said Angelina Olender. "We took precautions but she's just smarter than us, two steps ahead of us."

More than 150 people attended the vigil on Wednesday evening to honor both teens. Many cried, and others wrote 'I love you' messages on balloons before releasing them.

Some created posters with photos of the teens, and while there is a deep sense of grief, students and parents reminded each other that they were there for one another.

"We’re here. We’re feeling what they feeling and we’re with them on this," said parent Lisa Taurinski. "As a parent it just breaks your heart. You never want to see your child in that much pain."

Annie's friend Francesca Ferrante said she was shocked when she heard about the crash.

"I was surprised and emotional at the same time. It was very hard to hear it," Ferrante said. "I came to show my support and condolences to her (Annie) family and Olivia’s family."

Officials from the Department of Motor Vehicles said Olender had a driver's permit. She was able to drive with a parent, driving instructor and someone over the age of 20 who is teaching her how to drive. Nobody else was supposed to be allowed in the vehicle.

Fusco, officials from the DMV said, did not have a driver's permit.

Angelina Olender said she has advice for other teens.

"We said no, take your parents advice. We are doing it because we love you and we don't want you to be hurt. We don't want your parents going through what we are going through," she said.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Anyone who witnessed it is asked to call state police at 860-534-1000, extension 6136.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Annie's funeral expenses and can be found by clicking here.

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