An assistant coach for the Centerville Elks High School football team was killed in a crash on Interstate 70 that closed a portion of the highway for more than three hours Sunday morning.
Francois Hagenimana, 24, an alumnus of Centerville High School and a resident of Kettering, was driving west in the eastbound lanes on I-70 in a Toyota Scion when his vehicle collided head-on with a Honda Accord driven by Jason Fricke, 28, of Westerville around 3:09 a.m., according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene. Neither driver had passengers.
"At this point in time the investigation does look like we did have somebody that was going the wrong way," said Lt. Matthew Cleaveland of the state patrol.
Several 911 calls were received before the crash from drivers reporting a wrong-way driver on the interstate, Cleaveland said.
It was unknown at press time whether alcohol or speed were factors in the crash.
Hagenimana was in his first year as an assistant coach with the Elks and had recently enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He wanted to become a Navy SEAL.
Hagenimana attended Ashland University, where he played corner and safety. He graduated in 2012.
Fricke is a 2010 engineering graduate of Wright State University. He was on I-70 returning to Westerville after visiting friends in the Dayton area, his friends told News Center 7.
Friends also said Fricke was a great friend and "was the kind of guy that would give the last dollar in his pocket and the shirt off his back just so he could bring happiness to someone else."
The speed limit on the stretch of I-70 was increased to 70 miles per hour in July. The change has not resulted in an influx in crashes along the interstate, but the State Highway Patrol will review a long-term study of crashes over time as the speed limits continue to change across the state, Cleaveland sad.
Under a new law, going into effect today, any roads designated as rural divided highways will now have a speed limit of 60 mph while rural expressways without traffic signals will have a speed limit of 65 mph. Rural freeways across the state will move to a speed limit of 70 mph.
"You can only imagine both vehicles going around the speed limit of 70 mph and when you get a head-on crash with those kind of speeds it's usually pretty bad," Cleaveland said.
After the initial impact, each vehicle veered right, sending one car into the wire barricade and the second into a grassy embankment. Both vehicles were heavily damaged in the wreck.
Valerie Carson, of the Cleveland area, was returning home from Kansas City, where her family had attended a funeral over the weekend. She was devastated to see the destruction.
"It just hurt me so bad, because I could only imagine that that person was either going home or maybe leaving home and may have said goodbye to a family member," Carson said. "Who knows that when you say goodbye, it could be the last time you say goodbye."
Carson, along with dozens of other drivers, sat in their vehicles on the highway while officials cleaned up the crash.
The Ohio Department of Transportation was summoned to the scene to place lighted arrow boards directing drivers off east I-70 at the U.S. 40 exit.
The highway was reopened to drivers just before 7 a.m.