NORDONIA HILLS — The school district is dealing with the news that two recent graduates were killed in a motorcycle crash in Independence early Tuesday evening.

"It’s a tragic loss when young people die in any manner," Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark said Thursday morning.

The Ohio Highway Patrol said it is investigating the crash that killed Sagamore Hills resident Peter Nero, 22, and Macedonia resident Shelby Novak, 19, at the interstates 480 and 77 interchange.

Clark said Nero was a 2014 Nordonia High School graduate and Novak graduated from the high school in 2018.

"It’s tragic and we spent yesterday, a lot of staff members and a lot of students, just reminiscing about their memories of the kids that died and the memories were all really good," Clark said. "They were well-liked kids and everyone was just kind of in shock that this could happen and saddened, and our prayers go out to the families."

Nordonia High School Principal Casey Wright said he remembers the two well.

"They were both great kids," he said. "They were the type of kids that put a smile on your face. When you saw them in the hallway and even as a principal with 1,300 kids, when you saw Shelby and when you saw Peter, I remember having individual conversations with both of them and and I distinctly remember how much I enjoyed talking to them and how much they made my staff smile."

Wright informed parents of the deaths in an email sent Wednesday, in which he said help would be available to students having difficulties in dealing with the situation.

"When death occurs there are always a number of emotions and feelings we can expect to see in our students," he wrote. They include anger, guilt, confusion, fear, blame, disbelief and even indifference. These are normal reactions, and students may experience several of them over the weeks to come. We need to give them permission to feel whatever emotion they have and support them as they go through the grieving process.

"Your school staff is prepared to support all students through this very difficult time. Whether they knew Peter and Shelby, or not, the tragedy can impact them in some way. If you have any questions or concerns, we encourage you to call or come by the school.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends affected by this tragedy."

In emails sent to Clark on Wednesday, two former teachers of Novak’s remembered her.

"Shelby was a fun-loving, thoughtful student in my First Grade class!" wrote Ledgeview Elementary School teacher Janis Roskoph. "She came to visit me last year, at the end of the school year, and asked me if I remembered her. Of course I do/did! She will be missed. I'm so sorry to hear this news, and will offer my thoughts and prayers to her family."

Ledgeview third-grade teacher Nicole Occhionero wrote that she was "deeply saddened" by the news.

"Shelby attended LV and she was such an amazing little girl," Occhionero wrote. "She was always so positive and happy, even when learning wasn't easy for her. She once brought in all of her mother's fine jewelry and began giving it away to her friends. When we caught on and retrieved all the rings she just couldn't understand why she wasn't allowed to share with all of her friends. Shelby was just such a caring and loving child."

OHP said the investigation revealed that the red 2012 Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle was traveling westbound on Interstate 480 and exited onto the Interstate 77 north ramp at a little after 6 p.m. Tuesday. As the ramp curved to the right, the motorcycle slid off the left side of the ramp and struck a yield sign. The motorcycle overturned and traveled over the Interstate 480 east to Interstate 77 north ramp, continued on and came to rest in the grass median that separates the ramps from the Interstate 77 north through lanes.

OHP said that Nero, the motorcycle’s driver, was ejected from the motorcycle during the crash and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Independence EMS took Novak, to Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland, where she also died of injuries.

OHP said both Nero and Novak used motorcycle helmets and safety gear. Nero had a temporary motorcycle permit but had not obtained a motorcycle endorsement.

The Independence police and fire departments, as well as the Ohio Department of Transportation and Kufner Towing assisted at the scene.

The crash remains under investigation, but speed is considered a factor in the crash, said OHP.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.