July 26, 2014

Elyria
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Texting ruled out as cause of crash that killed Cole family

ELYRIA — Ohio Highway Patrol investigators have concluded that texting was not a cause of the crash that took the lives of the Cole family in November.

Simone, Ryleigh and Gar Cole

Simone, Ryleigh and Gar Cole

“We have concluded that there was no documentation that any texting was going on eight to 10 minutes before the accident,” Lt. Travis Hughes, commander of the patrol’s Elyria post, said Monday. “Records indicate the last message sent was at 1 p.m. From that we’re comfortable in saying that the crash was not the result of texting.”

The Nov. 16 crash claimed the lives of Gar Cole, 24, his wife, Simone, 22, their 18-month-old daughter Ryleigh Marie, and the couple’s unborn son — whose life paramedics tried to save by performing an emergency C-section at the scene.

The conclusion that the driver, Gar Cole, did no texting (nor made any calls) in the minutes before the accident was confirmed through cell phone records subpoenaed from Verizon and analyzed by investigators in Columbus.

The crash occurred when the family’s 2007 Ford Taurus went left-of-center on Baumhart Road and collided head-on with a delivery truck.

The crash occurred during a steady rain, but weather was ruled out as a cause. Speeding also was ruled out, along with drugs and alcohol, Hughes said.

The investigation into the crash remains open, but Hughes acknowledged it may not yield any new substantial findings.

“We’ll still do what we can to find out what caused the crash, but realistically we may never know,” he said.

Hughes also said that investigators do not request blanket access to the content of cell phone conversations.

“We were not necessarily looking for the content of those conversations but rather for records of the (cell phone) activity and what was going on inside that car right before the crash. You have to show specific reasons why you need to see content.”

Gar Cole’s phone was one of three cell phones found in the car. A second phone is believed to have belonged to his wife, Simone.

“We’re not exactly sure about the status of the third phone,” Hughes said. “We sent all three phones for analysis, but his was the one we were very interested in. We’re still working on the others.”

Information obtained thus far from examination of the phones reveals “inconclusive data when it comes to any outgoing calls” from Gar and Simone’s cell phones, Hughes said, adding investigation showed that calls were received to the phones after 2:08 p.m.

Hughes said it is possible that the impact of the crash wiped out the cell phones’ internal data, including records of stored calls and when they were made or received. The state patrol’s Computer Crime Unit has been analyzing the family’s cell phones, Hughes said.

Part of the reason for the wait in getting the cell phone records was the amount of time needed to process requests for it, which involved the patrol investigators in Columbus, staff at the Elyria post, and the county Prosecutor’s Office, Hughes said.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said his office submitted an original subpoena for the cell phone records in the weeks following the crash but later had to submit an amended subpoena.

“It was to speed up a computer search for data by being more specific. We included the ESN (electronic serial number) of the phone,” Will said.

The cell phone records were received by the investigators in Columbus within the past few weeks, Hughes said.

Such a time delay is frustrating, especially for those waiting for answers.

“Everybody wants answers right away, but everything takes time,” Hughes said. “Everything has a process and we have guidelines we have to follow.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7155 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.