As she made formula for her 10-month old son, Heather Putnoky heard a crash on the other side of her first-floor apartment’s wall around 6:55 p.m. Monday.
A van had crashed into the Deichler’s Tire Center at 48487 Telegraph Road (state Route 113) to which Putnoky’s apartment is attached.
The crash critically injured the driver and seriously injured his two passengers, according to Herb de la Porte, vice president of the LifeCare ambulance company.
The State Highway Patrol identified Ray Buckhannon, 47, of Norwalk as the driver and Jimmy Watts, 47, of Norwalk and Robert Johnson, 50, of Willard as passengers. Buckhannon is listed in fair condition today at MetroHealth Regional Medical Center. Watts was discharged from MetroHealth, and Johnson is in good condition.
Putnoky said when she and her fiance, William “Corey” Whitacre, went outside, the shop’s sign was ablaze on the ground and wires were sparking from a utility pole struck by the van before it crashed through the bay door of the shop.
Putnoky said the van narrowly missed knocking down the bedroom wall where Corey Whitacre was and where their son, Christopher Whitacre, was sleeping in his crib.
“We’re lucky that van didn’t go any further into the shop because it would’ve killed my son,” she said. “It was really scary.”
The driver of the van veered left where the road curves slightly right about a quarter-mile from the Baumhart Road intersection.
“It looks like it just drove off the road,” said Trooper David Francway of the Ohio Highway Patrol’s Elyria post. “I’m not sure why.”
Putnoky she said she could hear someone inside the van, possibly the driver, whom firefighters had to extricate, screaming for help.
“They told him they couldn’t get him out at the time because of all the electrical stuff that was going up in flames,” she said.
Around 7:55 p.m. as flames were still burning from an electrical transformer, the driver was wheeled on a stretcher to a helicopter and flown to MetroHealth. According to the Highway Patrol, both passengers were taken to a Mercy hospital, although they couldn't say for sure which location. Both were also later taken to MetroHealth.
The crash knocked out electricity to 1,273 homes in the area, according to Joe Faga, a spokesman for Ohio Edison. By 9:30 p.m., 16 homes were without power, and electricity was expected to be fully restored by 1:30 a.m. today.
While thankful that she and her family weren’t injured, Putnoky said Corey Whitacre, who worked at the shop, is now out of a job.
“The whole side of the shop is gone,” she said.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.