April 20, 2014

Elyria
Mostly clear
37°F
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Teens pray for family hurt in crash

ELYRIA – The approximately 150 teenagers from Opelika, Ala., at the Chesnut Ridge Baptist Church for a youth rally don’t know Thomas Tomasheski or his 13-year-old daughter Danielle, but they prayed on Sunday that the two will recover from being critically injured in a June 11 car crash.

The impromptu prayer session came after Friday funeral services for Tammy Tomasheski, Tomasheski’s wife, and Tommy Tomasheski, their 11-year-old son, killed in the head-on crash. Gerald Wetherbee Jr., who was driving without a license when police say he veered into the Tomasheskis on state Route 83, has been released from the hospital but has not been charged.

Thomas Tomasheski remained in critical condition Sunday night. A hospital representative said Danielle Tomasheski was stable. The elder Tomasheski was breathing with the assistance of a ventilator at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland on Sunday, according to Tomasheski’s friend, Damion Chatman, who visited him Sunday.

“He’s still deep in the woods,” said Chatman, who, like Tomasheski, is a deacon at the church. “We need to keep him lifted up in prayer.”

Phaedra Chatman, Chatman’s wife, said she was close to Tammy Tomasheski, a youth volunteer at the church. Phaedra Chatman recalled how welcoming she was when the Chatman’s moved to North Ridgeville  from Niagara Falls, N.Y. Chatman said she was amazed by how giving Tammy Tomasheski was.

“I asked her once, ‘How do you manage your day when so many people try to reach out to you for guidance?’ ” Chatman said. “But she always did. She never turned anybody away.”

Phaedra Chatman, who also visited the elder Tomasheski on Sunday, said it was difficult explaining to her 7-year-old daughter about the deaths.  Church pastor, the Rev. Darrell Myers, said grief counselors met with friends of the Tomasheski children after the accident.

The prayers are part of an outpouring of support and fundraisers for the family. The Tomasheskis are also likely to receive money from the county and state.

If Wetherbee, who police suspect was driving drunk, is charged, the Tomasheskis could be eligible for up to $50,000 from the Ohio Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund, according to the Ohio attorney general’s website. The money comes from federal taxpayer grants, state court fees and state licensing fees.

Tomasheski, 38, a corporal with the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office, should receive a portion of his salary while recovering and a disability pension if he is unable to return to work, said Jay McDonald, president of the 26,000 member Ohio Fraternal Order of Police. The amount varies from department to department depending on officers’ union contracts and their length of service, said McDonald, a Marion police officer.

“It is much less than an on-duty disability, but you can receive some pension benefits,” he said. “There are some options available, but they are unique to the individual and the individual department.”

Myers said the church and the community will take care of the Tomasheskis. Myers said he hopes the accident inspires people to live better lives. “Let’s make better decisions in their honor and because of their example,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.