CONNEAUT — As the sun set along Lake Erie more than 100 people gathered on Friday evening to honor a young woman who lost her life in an automobile accident.
The candle-holding people were young and old, of varied race and gender. They came to remember Montana Enssle, 18, who died May 20 in a crash on Thompson Road in Conneaut, according to Conneaut Police and the Ashtabula County Coroner's Office.
"Montana was a student of mine and her passing came as a surprise," said Gabe Cellini, a teacher at Conneaut High School and co-owner of Breakwall Barbecue, where the vigil was held. He said it was important for the community to come together and support the family and remember Enssle
Cellini also said with all that has been going on in the country with the coronavirus and other challenges, the loss of a teenager in the community was just overwhelming. He urged adults to keep an eye on young people and support them in this difficult time.
He said many students presently don't have teachers, youth leaders and others to assist them during the pandemic and many people are under a lot of stress.
Alexis Schultz helped organize the event and said it was important to remember Montana because everyone is "family" in Conneaut.
Zachary Ballard, 18, said he is the brother of the 16-year-old driver of the car who is trying to recover from her injuries. He said he thinks his sister would have wanted him to be there.
"I think this is the brotherly thing I could do for her," he said.
"She was a sweet little girl ... the time I had with her was a blessing," Cellini said.
Amanda Botts said she lost her little sister four years ago and shared her feelings about the challenge the family will face. She said she didn't know Montana, but urged the family and friends to stay stay strong as a community.
"It is kind of a reminder how special life is," Botts said.
At the conclusion of the vigil, friends and family were encouraged to sign a memory board in Enssl's honor and place candles on the stage.
Victoria Flacke said she was a classmate in the small animal program at Ashtabula Technical and Career Center and was able to give her a special memory after Enssle said she wouldn't get anything for Valentine's Day.
"I gave her a poster with a Snickers bar," Flacke said.