NEW RUSSIA TWP. — A Firelands teacher and a township man were in critical condition Tuesday night after their vehicles collided head-on on Russia Road.
Donald Kneisel was just a quarter-mile from his Russia Road home Tuesday when westbound driver Aidan McNulty said Kneisel tried to pass him in the eastbound lane of Russia Road.
Kneisel’s Chevrolet Silverado pickup crashed into the eastbound Toyota Camry driven by James Muth, of Elyria, who is a teacher at Firelands High School. Both men were in critical condition at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland this morning.
“I heard the two cars collide and then I saw them going off the road,” McNulty said of the crash, which remains under investigation by the state Highway Patrol. “Nobody really had the chance to put their brakes on.”
McNulty, 19, said Kneisel didn’t appear to be speeding or driving erratically prior to the crash, which occurred around 3:10 p.m. in heavy rain about a half-mile west of Oberlin Road near state Route 58.
“It just looked more like an honest accident to me,” McNulty said.
The Camry spun and ended up in a front yard at 45447 Russia Road. The Silverado stopped about 50 yards west of the Camry in a front yard two doors down at 45509 Russia Road. Kneisel, 79, lives in the 48000 block of Russia Road.
Both vehicles sustained heavy front-end damage. McNulty said he called 911 and then tried to talk to the victims. He said both drivers were conscious but didn’t speak.
A bloody Muth was removed from his car by Oberlin and South Amherst firefighters around 3:25 p.m. and Kneisel was removed from his vehicle at 3:30 p.m.
“You guys ready?” a firefighter asked fellow firefighters as they prepared to lift the gurney carrying Kneisel from the Silverado to an ambulance. “One, two, three!”
Kneisel is a retired mason for a concrete company and husband and father of several children, according to his nephew, Brian Kneisel.
“He’s very likeable,” Brian Kneisel said in a phone interview.
Muth, 39, of the 1800 block of South Abbe Road in Elyria, teaches history at Firelands High School in Oberlin. About 15 people posted supportive messages on Muth’s Facebook page Tuesday night including former students who praised his teaching skills.
“You were so relaxed in front of us all and able to make all of us laugh from the nicknames you gave out to the funny stories you encountered over the weekend,” wrote Alexis Perez. “Please get better.”
Elizabeth Bilby, who graduated from Firelands last year, said in a phone interview that Muth previously coached volleyball but quit last year to spend more time with his wife and children. Bilby, who played volleyball for Muth, said Muth is the public address announcer for Firelands football games.
Bilby said Muth fires up fans with his enthusiasm the way he energizes students in the classroom.
“He’s a really good teacher,” she said. “Everyone’s learned a lot from him.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.