June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Family, friends remember teens

PARMA — As gray skies threatened rain on Sunday afternoon, hundreds of students, parents and community members quietly gathered outside the doors of Busch Funeral Home in Parma, waiting to pay respects to the Ehrbar family during calling hours.

It would have been Erin Ehrbar’s 17th birthday, said her uncle, Daniel Donovan, outside the funeral home. Donovan is the brother of the children’s mother, Laura Ehrbar.

Erin, 16, and her younger brother, Andrew 13, both students of Highland Local Schools, were in a car accident Wednesday with another Highland teen, Jonathon Slifka, 17, while on their way to school. Erin died at the scene while Andrew died at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland on Thursday morning.

Donovan described his niece and nephew as “good kids.”

“Erin was full of life … a beautiful young woman,” Donovan said. “Andrew was a boy’s boy… He loved sports, soccer. Really just fun, vibrant.”

Like other family members, Donovan wore a bright green rubber wrist band reading “Donate Life” — a show of solidarity for the children’s status as organ donors.

“My sister, even in this difficult time, was able to think of others,” Donovan said of his Laura Ehrbar’s decision to choose organ donation.

“For our family, this is obviously a devastating loss,” Donovan said. “But we are very lucky to have a large, supportive family.”

He also said the community has been very supportive, and his sister has received countless phone calls, cards and Facebook messages from people expressing their grief and wanting to help.

“The most important thing,” Donovan said of what the community could do, “is to keep (the Ehrbars) in their prayers.”

James Ehrbar, the children’s father, died in 2004. He and Laura had two other children, Melissa and Sean.

Gina Fox, the coach of Highland High School’s girls soccer team, stood outside the funeral home holding a green Highland Hornets jersey with Erin’s number, 15, printed on it.

“She never lived a day in black and white, she lived in color,” Fox said of Erin. Fox said that she is trying to have Erin’s number retired from the soccer team in her honor.

Highland Local Schools has lost three students in separate car accidents this school year. Victoria Jackson, 16, who attended Highland High School, was killed in a Medina Township crash in December.

At about 7:15 a.m. Wednesday, just before the start of the school day, Erin Ehrbar was pulling out of her driveway at 1825 Wilbur Road in a 2002 Pontiac Sunfire when a 1973 Ford Mustang hit her driver’s side.

Jonathon Slifka, the driver of the Mustang, was treated and released at Medina Hospital.

Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Jeff Hirsch said there were a variety of factors that may have played a role in the accident.

“Sun glare was present when I arrived,” Hirsch said, and it may have obstructed Erin’s view.

The crash remains under investigation.

Contact Kaitlin Bushinski at (330) 721-4050 or kbushinski@medina-gazette.com.