The two girls killed in a Mercer County crash on Sunday were active members of Notre Dame Church in Hermitage.
“It’s just unbelievable because seeing them Sunday morning and this happening Sunday night,” said Joe Ranelli, the youth education director at Notre Dame.
Ranelli has been with Notre Dame the last 19 years. He said he’s known three of the crash victims all their lives.
“They’ve really impacted my life because they’ve been here faithfully, and watching them grow.”
Sunday night, 16-year-old Alexis Myers and 15-year-old Danielle Nelson were killed. Two others, including parishioner Emily Spielvogle, were badly hurt when the SUV they were riding in crashed along I-80 near Mercer.
The girls were on their way to a faith-based youth program at Grove City College at the time of the crash.
Ranelli said since then, he’s been reaching out to the girls’ parents. He said he talked with Spielvogle’s mother Tuesday morning.
“She spoke many times this morning about ‘why, why, why, why, why, why,’ knowing that we’re not going to get an answer to the ‘why.'”
Ranelli said the two survivors are doing better but remain in a Pittsburgh hospital. Emily had surgery on her foot on Monday and is now on the “upward climb,” he said. Ranelli said the other victim had been in critical care but is now in another wing of the hospital.
“There’s great movement upward, in terms of recovery.”
In the meantime, visible signs of support for the victims — including message boards at both Hickory High School and nearby Kennedy Catholic, and banners made by students in Sharon — have been overwhelming to the girls’ families.
“You can only thank God for that because in this hour of need, that’s necessary to know that you’re not alone,” Ranelli said.
He is planning a prayer service this Sunday for students in the girls’ religious education classes, saying the best way to honor their memories is to never forget the impact they made.
Myers’ visiting hours will be Thursday from 4 until 8 p.m. at the John Flynn Funeral Home in Hermitage. Her funeral will be at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Notre Dame Church in Hermitage.
Nelson’s calling hours will be Thursday from 5:30 until 9:30 p.m. at the McGonigle Funeral Home in Sharon. A funeral mass will be held Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Notre Dame Church in Hermitage.