TERRACE PARK, Ohio - The father of Collin Barton made an emotional plea to other parents and their children Wednesday -- talk to one another and keep the lines of communication open.
The Terrace Park teenager's body was found Tuesday afternoon along Wooster Pike in Columbia Township. The 16-year-old apparently was struck and killed by a car early Sunday morning as he walked home from Madison Place.
Sean Barton's comments came as he sat on the top step of the gazebo in Terrace Park's Village Green -- a place where Collin loved to hang out just a few steps away from the family's home.
Barton said he wanted to something positive to come out of the tragedy and speaking out was his way of reinforcing the message.
"Life is not without tragedy and we all know this. Some tragedies are easier to accept than others. This is one of those tragedies that is seemingly impossible to accept," he said. "We are struggling with how to move forward. The only thing that is keeping us going is our responsibility to each other as a family. We are very private people, especially in our grief, but we also feel a responsibility to our family, friends and community."
Collin told his father he was going to a sleepover on Saturday night, but he ended up at a house in Madison Place and tried to walk the five miles home after he and his girlfriend had broken up.
"To all of Collin's friends -- especially those who were with him his last weekend, it's ok to be sad, but it's not ok to feel guilty," Sean said. "We are all feeling it. What could we have done differently? This question haunts us all. The number of things and decisions that had to line up in the last 24-hours of Collin's life for this to happen seem impossible, but they did."
Sean urged teens to consider their decisions differently in the future and think about the outcome before acting.
"Think beyond whether this is fun or not. Think beyond what you want to do and consider what is safe and what your parents would want you to do," he said. "And, if you need to call home, call home, no matter what you've done or what time it is."
One thing Sean said he tells his children is to never go anywhere alone. He called it an important rule that needs to be followed.
"Don't be so afraid to tell your parents the truth and to follow the rules. Your life may depend on it," he said. "Please parents -- talk to your kids. Please kids -- talk to your parents. Parents -- be strong and don't be afraid to say no. Kids -- be strong and don't be afraid to say no to your friends."
Collin had been the object of an intense search by first responders, family members, friends and even strangers. Sean thanked them all and the media, calling the outpouring of support "staggering."
Sean asked that if people want to memorialize his son, they should make a contribution to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or to their charity of their choice.
Hamilton County Sheriff's Office investigators continue to assemble facts in the case. The 23-year-old Milford driver of the car that they believe hit Collin told police he thought he had hit a deer. The silver Honda was impounded on Tuesday for examination. Neighbors said it had a cracked windshield on the passenger side and damage to the front right side.
Investigators are calling the driver a "person of interest" right now and haven't determined whether charges are warranted in the case. We are not naming the driver because he has not been charged.