Terry Austin “The Outlaw” Cromer

Terry Austin “The Outlaw” Cromer

North Laurel High School staff and students mourn the loss of one of their own. Austin Cromer, of Hazel Patch Road, died Saturday after falling from a cliff.

Cromer was a senior at the school, although was not set to graduate this year.

Math teacher Kristie Harris remembers her student fondly.

“He was a very bright young man who had a lot of potential,” she said. “He had a natural aptitude for math — he always just knew the answers. Ever respectful, Austin cared for the feelings of others. He never met a stranger.”

Principal Mike Black said Cromer was a nice boy.

“He was a polite young man, kind of quiet,” he said. “A young man with a unique personality.”

Black said Cromer was not involved in any extracurricular activities, but “had a great deal of friends.”

“A great deal of students have been seeing counselors today,” Black said.

“It’s tragic when anyone loses their lives — especially when a teenager loses their life,” he added.

Around 1:30 a.m. May 10, Cromer, 19, was one of a group of six to nine teenagers riding in the bed of a gold Sonoma pickup truck on an unnamed road off north U.S. 25, Laurel County Sheriff’s Head Detective Charles Loomis said.

When the truck pulled onto the highway, Kentucky State Police troopers Fred Pennington and Darren Allen, who had already stopped a car that had also come from that road, saw it. When the driver — Leroy Davidson, 18 — saw the troopers, he put the truck in reverse and went back down the road.

Pennington pursued.

“When he turned his blue lights on, the truck stopped and they bailed out,” Loomis said. “Some went left, some went right.”

Cromer, along with several others, went left in the northerly direction.

“He cut into the woods earlier than some, which put him in the direction of a high cliff,” Loomis said.

Being that it was dark at the time, the teen apparently “ran right off it,” Loomis said.

Cromer reportedly broke the branch of a tree and pulled down some mountain laurel before landing.

Laurel County Coroner Doug Bowling said the landing broke the teen’s neck. The most visible injuries were reportedly to Cromer’s face.

Cromer was not the only teenager to get injured. Several of the other teens who had headed left off the road ran into rocky embankments and fell down them.

One other teen reportedly checked into Manchester Memorial Hospital Saturday morning with a possible broken back.

Loomis said Pennington was not chasing Cromer or the other teens at the time. He had stopped Davidson and two other passengers soon after the others ran away.

Loomis said he could not confirm whether or not alcohol was a factor in Cromer’s accident.

“There is no evidence at this time,” he said.

Davidson was charged with one count of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (less than 21), one count of failure to wear a seat belt, one count of first-degree fleeing or evading police on foot and one count of possession of open alcoholic container in a vehicle.

Two other juveniles were each charged with one count of second-degree fleeing or evading police on foot. The second juvenile was also charged with one count of public intoxication of a controlled substance.

Earlier that evening, Cromer had participated in a mixed martial arts fight at Pittsburg Memorial Park, which he won. Loomis said the group headed to the unnamed road following the fight.

When Cromer did not come home that night, his mother and several friends went to look for him. Around 11 a.m. Saturday, one of the friends found him lying at the foot of the cliff.

The incident is being investigated by the London-Laurel County Major Crimes Task Force, London-Laurel County Rescue Squad, Ambulance Inc. of Laurel County, East Bernstadt Fire Department and Laurel County Coroner Doug Bowling.

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