EATON TWP. — A chaotic scene Saturday evening began on an Eaton Township road when a motorcycle skidded out of control and triggered a chain-reaction crash involving at least three other motorcycles, including one that burst into flames, Ohio Highway Patrol troopers said.
Four people on the motorcycles — passengers and drivers alike — suffered severe injuries and were flown to a Cleveland hospital, while a fifth person was taken by ambulance to EMH Regional Medical Center and a sixth person was treated at the crash site, Highway Patrol Trooper Christopher Ausse said.
|CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE|
|Rescue workers attend to a victim of a motorcycle crash Saturday in Eaton Township on state Route 82.|
None of the victims’ names or ages was available, though they were all listed in stable condition at various hospitals late Saturday, Ausse said, adding that the Patrol is still investigating the incident.
This much is known for certain, according to troopers: Alcohol and “following too closely” contributed to the accident, at least one man was arrested for DUI, and other charges may follow.
Ausse, an eight-year Highway Patrol veteran, said he’s never seen a motorcycle crash involving so many bikes and victims.
Troopers said at least six motorcycles — some with passengers — were westbound on state Route 82 when one or two of the motorcycles at the front locked up their brakes in front of a house just east of Durkee Road.
Dan Radosevich, 16, who witnessed the incident from the front yard of his family’s home, said dozens of motorcycles were coming and going from a house across the street all day.
“I don’t know if he was trying to avoid something, or if he was trying to stop (at the house),” Radosevich said.
The lead motorcycle skidded out of control, flipped and then caught fire, Radosevich said.
The motorcycle immediately behind ran over that bike and crashed, according to Radosevich, while at least two other motorcycles close behind — some with passengers — drove through the wreckage and crashed on either side of the road.
“There were pieces of bikes flying through the air,” Radosevich said, adding that the driver whose motorcycle had caught fire quickly scrambled away from the wreck.
Ron Mitchell, of Elyria, had gathered at the home for a charity “poker run” for a child suffering from an illness.
“I heard some tires squealing and looked up, and saw that one of the bikes was on fire,” Mitchell said.
Eaton Township firefighter Glenn Thompson, the first emergency worker who arrived at the scene, said there were wrecked motorcycles all over the place.
“They were everywhere, from ditch to ditch, and about a 150-foot-long debris field,” Thompson said. “There were varied injuries — we couldn’t narrow it down to any one specific injury.”
Emergency workers from Eaton Township, Columbia and Grafton fire departments stabilized the victims. Three helicopters transported four victims to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ausse said.
Among the worst injured was a female passenger on the motorcycle driven by the man who was later arrested for DUI, Ausse said, noting that it was the man’s girlfriend.
The DUI suspect did not appear to suffer any noticeable injuries, though he cried as he sat in the back of a trooper’s cruiser and watched the injured bikers being strapped to gurneys.
All of the victims were conscious despite suffering serious injuries, and Radosevich said one of the male victims had broken bones protruding from his wrist and leg.
Hours after the incident, Ausse could only shake his head. Troopers are awaiting toxicology results from the other injured drivers to see if they were intoxicated as well.
“Drinking definitely plays a role in this type of crash,” Ausse said.
“Everybody thought they owned the road — and you see what happens,” Ausse said. “You can’t let age and how long you’ve been riding a bike dictate your experience.”
Ausse said the bikers were probably unfamiliar with each other’s riding habits and were likely driving maybe one bike length away from their fellow riders.
“(Bikers) like to be close when they go down the road because it looks more impressive,” Ausse said. “It’s a pack mentality.”
Shortly after the crash, a biker who wasn’t involved in the incident walked up to Ausse and handed him a 9mm handgun that he said he found in a ditch near one of the wrecked motorcycles.
Ausse said the weapon was not loaded, and troopers will investigate that incident as well.
Contact Shawn Foucher at (440) 653-6255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.