Community helps restore vandalized memorial of 4 men killed in 2017 Englewood crash

The memorial site for four young Port Charlotte men who were killed in a fiery Englewood crash in 2017 was recently vandalized, so community members came together to put it back together again.

The families of those lost are dealing with not only a broken memorial but broken hearts, as they receive community support.

Friends Austin Tyler Hirschy, 21, Keith J. Williams, 25, Dustin Cory Strong, 23, and William “Billy” Barr Solomon, 20, were killed in a two-vehicle crash at Sunnybrook Boulevard and Rosemonte Drive three years ago in July 2017.

We spoke to Billy’s mom, Lorraine Ewing, about how they’re getting the spot back together.

“This thing actually keeps me going. It keeps my sanity,” Ewing said. “I mean, it was just a little burn spot and then the cross came. Then, it just started to turn into a real memorial.”

Ewing comes to this spot whenever she needs to clear her mind. It’s a place to remember Billy and his three friends.

“This is where they took their last breath, so it means something to me,” Ewing said.

Ewing found her piece of calm in chaos Wednesday morning after the memorial was found torn apart.

“It’s like some mad person came in here and just threw everything. It took us two hours to find the stuff out of the woods,” Ewing said. “Their headstones were thrown over there. My son had to climb in them trees.”

The effort to restore the memorial for a few local boys was already underway when we spoke to Ewing.

“People offered — boys dropping new wood off to build a new sign,” Ewing said. “People stopped and dropped pumpkins off, flowers, and a lot of people are coming tomorrow and bringing stuff.”

The Englewood community gathered when four grieving families needed it most.

The Sun Newspapers reported months after the crash the medical examiner found the four boys who died were drinking the night of the crash.

The family and friends of Austin, Keith, Dustin and Billy are offering a $500 reward for information on who’s responsible for vandalizing the memorial. Anyone with information can contact Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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