November 1, 2014

Elyria
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42°F
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Driver injured in Turnpike crash after SUV goes airborne

 

AMHERST TOWNSHIP — A New London man who may have suffered a diabetic reaction drove his vehicle off the Ohio Turnpike near state Route 58 late Saturday afternoon and became airborne over an entrance ramp before crashing short of a marsh.

Ronald L. Leach Jr., 58, was flown to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. His condition was unknown at presstime. The Ohio Highway Patrol described his injuries as serious.

The accident occurred about 5:45 p.m., according to Sgt. Brian Gockstetter of the patrol’s Milan post. Gockstetter said Leach was westbound in his 2011 Kia Forte on the Turnpike when he drove off the right side of the roadway just west of the turnpike exit ramp leading to state Route 58.

“He hit the embankment (of the entrance ramp) and his vehicle vaulted over it,” Gockstetter said.

Tire marks could be seen for several hundred feet from the berm of the westbound lanes to a point just below the entrance ramp embankment.

After vaulting over the curving on-ramp, the Kia Forte landed in a ravine on the other side where it flipped over several times before coming to rest on its right side in heavy underbrush.

Firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life to remove Leach from the vehicle.

“It appears from the distance he traveled and the fact he went airborne that he was traveling at a high rate of speed,” Gockstetter said.

Amherst Assistant Fire Chief Jim Wilhelm said it appeared Leach’s vehicle traveled more than 1,000 feet before finally coming to rest just east of the marshy area.

“There’s an indication he may have suffered a diabetic attack,” Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm said Leach, who was alone in the vehicle, was initially unconscious.

“He looked to be coming around a bit” as he was being tended to by rescue personnel, Wilhelm said.

The Kia appeared to have sustained significant damage. The front grill was torn off and laying a short distance away, and the vehicle’s white deflated airbags could clearly be seen from the top of the entrance ramp.

“He must have nose-dived down from the looks of it,” Wilhelm said.

The crash was the third to be handled by Amherst firefighters in the same area within a 24-hour period, Wilhelm said, following a one-vehicle crash about 6:30 p.m. Friday and a second that occurred about 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

The earlier accidents took place in the westbound lanes of the Turnpike less than a mile west of Saturday afternoon’s crash. Neither produced any serious injuries, Wilhelm said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.