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Police: 3 tried to kick out windows to escape sunken truck as others tried to break in

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

As friends jumped into a muddy overflow pond in Indiana County with crowbars to attempt a rescue, the three men trapped inside an overturned pickup truck tried to kick out the vehicle's windshield to escape, according to police.

One onlooker even broke off the front bumper of his truck trying to pull the mens' truck from the water with a chain.

But all of their efforts ended in vain at 2 a.m. Sunday when the men were finally pulled from the truck and were pronounced dead at a private residence in South Mahoning.

The victims were Sean Johnathan Titus, 20, of Rayburn, Armstrong County; Zane Michael McMillen, 19, of North Buffalo; and Cody Allen Brink Douglas, 18, of North Buffalo Township, Armstrong County, said Indiana County Chief Deputy Coroner Jerry Overman.

The three men were driving on a private dirt road when they continued into an overflow pond, flipping the car onto its roof and trapping them inside. Witnesses told police Titus was driving the truck.

As state police at Indiana inspected the mud-covered truck Monday, they found evidence that the men had tried to kick their way out as bystanders attempted to break in.

Trooper John Matchik said water pressure may be the reason that none of the efforts was successful.

A friend of the three victims, Kaleb Baum, said he and others jumped into the water and tried to break the windows and pull out the truck.

“At one point, we went underwater and one of the windows was down,” he said. “I was reaching in the vehicle, but the gap was so small I couldn't do anything. And the water was so cold.”

In the coming days, the police will investigate where the men were before the accident.

The coroner's office will order toxicology tests to determine whether alcohol was involved, Overman said, adding that it could be weeks before the toxicology reports come back.

The Indiana County coroner determined that the deaths were from freshwater drowning. There were no signs of trauma.

The three are remembered as fun-loving men with bright futures, friends and family said.

Kari Kemerer, mother of Sean Titus' 4-year-old son, Jordan, said she is still waiting to wake up from the nightmare.

Just a few weeks ago, Titus took his son on a class field trip to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. They planned to attend a father-son dinner next week.

Titus has another son, 1-year-old Xavier Pyle.

“He was an amazing father,” Kemerer said. “He loved both of his sons.”

Titus enrolled at Butler County Community College in August 2012.

“He said he wanted to be a state cop,” Kemerer said. “That's all he was looking forward to.”

McMillen and Brink were graduates of Kittanning High School.

“They were funny; they liked to goof off,” Baum said.

Brink, a boxer, was thinking about going into the military, Baum said. He was working as a landscaper.

McMillen planned to pursue a career in the military.

All three loved riding dirt bikes and hanging out with their friends.

Kemerer said her main focus now is their son.

“Jordan said to me, ‘I think he's up there in the clouds playing video games,'” she said.

Kate Wilcox is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or kwilcox@tribweb.com.

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