April 16, 2014

Elyria
Sunny
40°F
test

Head-on crash kills 5 in Toledo

TOLEDO — A drunken driver sped down a highway in the wrong direction for about four miles before his pickup truck slammed into a minivan carrying a family home after a holiday trip, police said.

A woman and four children in the minivan, including an 8-week-old girl, were killed in the crash that scattered toys, stuffed animals and bits of gift wrap along the edge of the road.

LORI KING / TOLEDO BLADE VIA AP
A head-on collision in Toledo on Sunday between a pickup truck going the wrong way on an interstate and a minivan killed five people in the minivan, including an infant, a fire department spokesman said.

Tests showed that the pickup truck’s wrong-way driver had a blood-alcohol level of .254 percent, more than three times the legal limit in Ohio of .08, police said.

Michael Gagnon, 24, of Adrian, Mich., was charged Monday with aggravated vehicular homicide. His speech was slurred and he smelled of alcohol at the crash scene, according to a police report.

His truck was going north in the southbound lanes of Interstate 280 Sunday night, fire officials said.

Bethany Griffin, 36, Jordan Griffin, 10, Vadi Griffin, 8 weeks, Lacie Burkman, 7, and Haley Burkman, 10, were killed, according to police. All are from Parkville, Md.

Both drivers tried to avoid each other, but the crash ripped a side door off the minivan, throwing out some of the victims.

An infant seat wrapped with pink baby blankets landed in the roadway.

“It was among the worst I’ve seen,” assistant fire chief Luis Santiago said.

A man and two other children from the minivan were taken to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, Santiago said.

Danny Griffin Jr., 36, was listed in serious condition; Sidney Griffin, 8, was in critical condition; and Beu Burkman, 8, was in serious condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

All eight had been visiting family in Michigan and were returning to Maryland.

Gagnon also was taken to a hospital, but his injuries were not as serious, Santiago said. There was no telephone listing for him or his family in Adrian.

Samuel Gagnon, Michael Gagnon’s brother, told The (Baltimore) Sun that he, his brother and their cousins were drinking at a hotel.

Their sister was supposed to drive them home, but Gagnon said his brother took off in the truck without telling anyone.

“I don’t know why he decided to leave,” Samuel Gagnon told the newspaper. “Everyone’s in shock. We’re supposed to be celebrating the New Year, but now I got to look forward to my brother in jail the rest of his life.”

When reached later by The Associated Press, Samuel Gagnon declined comment.

Michael Gagnon stopped at a fast-food restaurant in a Toledo suburb just before the crash, said Lt. Hank Everitt of the Oregon police department.

Workers at the restaurant called police, but Gagnon left before an officer arrived, Everitt said. Soon after, a 911 call came in about a wrong-way driver on the interstate.

Other drivers also alerted police just before the crash.