MILAN, Ohio (AP) — Drivers’ speeds, poor road conditions and bad weather contributed to a series of Ohio Turnpike crashes this month that killed three people and injured a State Highway Patrol trooper, according to a preliminary report that blames the crashes mostly on tractor-trailers.
The preliminary investigative report by the patrol into the March 12 crashes will be sent to the Sandusky County prosecutor to decide whether charges will be filed, according to The Blade newspaper of Toledo.
“Obviously the road conditions and weather conditions were factors in the crash,” highway patrol Lt. Brett Gockstetter said. “However, driver error is certainly attributed to these crashes because you have to be able to … realize that if you can’t see, you shouldn’t be driving fast.”
The crashes occurred on a snowy two-mile stretch of the turnpike halfway between Toledo and Cleveland. They involved about 40 vehicles and resulted in two separate pileups.
The patrol believes Hannah Matheny, 20, died after the stopped Ford Focus she was riding in was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer. The Focus had stopped because of a minor collision between two tractor-trailers ahead, authorities said.
Trooper Andrew Clouser was injured after responding to the crash involving the Focus. He’d left his car to walk to the scene of the crash when a vehicle struck his car. Clouser returned to check on victims involved in that crash when a tractor-trailer crashed into the vehicles, pinning the trooper between two cars and killing the truck driver, 42-year-old Grzegorz Piwowarczyk of Palatine, Ill.
Clouser was listed in fair condition Thursday at a Toledo hospital.
The day’s third fatality on the turnpike happened as traffic started to back up. Janice Robb, 66, of Schererville, Ind., a passenger in a vehicle driven by her husband, 68-year-old Duane Robb, was killed when their car hit a truck in front of it.
Thirty people were transported from the crashes to hospitals.