November 21, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria, JVS students mourn crash victim Allie Clifford

ELYRIA — Alexandra Clifford was best known as “Allie” to her friends.

Allie Clifford

On Tuesday, students at Elyria High School and the Lorain County Joint Vocational School were mourning Allie, 16, who died Monday evening after an accident on state Route 2.

She was a passenger in a car that veered into a ditch and hit several small trees just west of state Route 57 near the Ohio Turnpike.

Alexandra was taken to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where she later died from her injuries, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

As news of her death spread Tuesday to the schools she attended, students were grief-stricken, but eager to talk about her.

“I was with her almost every single day, and whenever we were together, we would goof around and just have fun,” said Taryn Harshberger, 18, a senior at Elyria High. “She always kept a smile on my face.”

Harshberger said she knew Alexandra for five years and the two girls got closer in the last two years. Harshberger paid tribute to her friend by posting a picture of the two of them as her Facebook profile picture.

“I knew something was wrong yesterday,” Harshberger said. “I talk to Allie every day after school, and I didn’t hear anything.”

The patrol is still investigating the accident and, because it involved a death, their investigation will be reviewed by the county prosecutor’s office.

Troopers said the car’s driver was Laniqua Lusane, 17, of Lorain. She lost control of her westbound 1999 Ford Escort and veered into the ditch. She was taken to EMH Medical Center in Elyria before being flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

There were three passengers, including Alexandra — Tyrell Hicks, 18, and Lucius Johnson, both of Elyria. Johnson was treated and released at EMH.

Ohio laws covering teens and passengers have gotten stricter. Sgt. Charles Gullett said that because Lusane was 17, the restrictions on her driver’s license prohibited her from having minors with her in the car between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless she was accompanied by a parent or guardian.

“Looking at the time of the crash in terms of that law, she was driving legally,” he said.

Harshberger said Alexandra was a junior at Elyria High and enrolled in the cosmetology program at the JVS. She loved to do hair and decided to enter the vocational program just like her older sister, Nicolette Clifford. She also played volleyball.

“She loved doing hair and make-up and was the kind of girl who would do your hair for no reason,” said 17-year-old Amanda Rourke, also a senior at Elyria High.

Amanda described her friend as goofy, friendly and the person who got along with everyone. The last time they spoke was Friday.

Harshberger said Alexandra lived with her mother, Angie Clifford, and had an older brother, Michael Clifford, in addition to an older sister. Her father, Richard Clifford, lived in Columbia Station, Harshberger said.

“She didn’t mind being the baby of the family,” Harshberger said. “They took good care of her. She was so caring, trustworthy, happy, goofy and weird, and, sometimes even a little obnoxious, but in a good way.”

Brianna McCartney, 17, said she and her sisters, Angel, 18, and Ashley, 16, knew Alexandra because their parents grew up with the Cliffords.

“We became really close through high school,” she said. “I’m going to miss her laugh, her smile and her goofiness.”

Amy Higgins, Elyria Schools spokeswoman, said Alexandra was well-liked and had a lot of friends.

“The student body at Elyria High has been hit very hard by this tragedy,” she said. “Students are very sad.”

Higgins said Principal Tom Jama had a crisis counseling team at the school all day. The team is made up of guidance counselors who have special training in grieving.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.