Nearly half of the traffic deaths this year in two of the area’s most populous counties happened in a 31-hour stretch this weekend, ending with a double fatality in a wreck involving an RTA bus and another deadly police chase.
The fiery Trotwood Sunday afternoon crash killed two teens and seriously injured a third when the vehicle fleeing a traffic stop reached speeds more than 100 miles per hour. The crash has renewed questions about statewide standards for police pursuits.
The deaths of Kyren Wright, 18, of Dayton, and an unidentified Trotwood-Madison High School student helped make this past weekend’s seven fatalities on roads in Montgomery and Greene counties the deadliest combined for those areas since at least 2014, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol records.
And the wreck involving the fleeing car — driven by Christopher Baker, 18, of Dayton — has a former sheriff now in the Ohio Legislature considering a state law to make police pursuit policies uniform and enforceable.
State Rep. Phil Plummer, R-40th District, said he will introduce a bill to increase penalties for those who flee police. The proposal will also provide a model chase policy for law enforcement agencies across Ohio, he said.
“These guys, they either run until they get away or they crash. We’re just killing too many innocent people,” he said. “It would be nice to have a standardized policy that everybody understands.”
Plummer said the threat of prison time will deter drivers from fleeing from police.
The issue for any new law on standardized police pursuits will be weighing the safety of the public versus capturing a suspect, said Thomas Hagel, professor emeritus at the University of Dayton Law School.
“That’s always the tough thing is how you come up with a balance,” he said.
Traffic fatalities in Montgomery (7) and Greene County (1) for this year totaled eight through Friday, according to highway patrol’s website.
Two crashes in each county from 11 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday resulted in four deaths in Montgomery and three in Greene, authorities said.
Details involving Sunday’s fatalities in Trotwood were not released by police as of Monday afternoon. The Dayton Daily News requested police reports, cruiser and traffic cameras and additional information about the crash, but Trotwood police did not provide any new information on the case Monday.
Trotwood-Madison Superintendent Tyrone Olverson sent a letter notifying the community of the death of one its students.
“It is with deep sadness that we inform you about a recent loss to our school community,” the letter states. “The loss is sure to raise many emotions, concerns and questions for our entire school community.”
Crisis counselors, mental health therapists and other professionals have been activated to address concerns, according to the letter.
“Students who were emotionally fragile prior to these events may have a bigger response than others,” Olverson wrote. “Some children’s reactions may be delayed for several days.”
Wright was last enrolled at Dunbar Early College High School on Feb. 22 of this year, according to Dayton Public Schools. Baker is also a former DPS student, last enrolled at Meadowdale High School March 17, 2018, DPS officials said in an email.
Initial reports indicate police sought to perform a traffic stop the Pontiac driven by Baker about 5:30 p.m., police said.
However, the vehicle “fled from them at a high rate of speed, traveling down the connector, where they tried to run the red light here at this intersection of Free Pike and State Route 49, where they collided with an RTA bus, causing the bus to flip over on its side,” Trotwood Police Chief Erik Wilson said.
Trotwood resident Shanee Young said she heard “a loud bang. But unfortunately where I live that’s kind of” normal.
The speeding problem in the area is “bad,” she said.
“You see speeding, usually, on a daily basis – cars flying around each other,” Young said. “You hear loud screeching of tires….on a daily basis.”
Excessive speed was a factor in at least two area fatal police pursuits in 2018.
On Nov. 19, Leonard James Guy Jr. of Dayton was killed in wreck after a car fleeing Moraine police crashed in Dayton.
A Nissan driven by Michael E. Wade reached speeds of about 55 miles per hour and crashed at the intersection of West Stewart and South Broadway streets, police said.
The crash, which ejected Wade and Guy from the car, occurred after Moraine police sought to make a traffic stop near Dryden Road around midnight.
Moraine police were also involved in pursuit turned fatal on Sept. 11. That’s when a longtime area Realtor was killed in a police chase in which she was not involved.
Mary Taulbee of Lebanon died in the high-speed chase on Ohio 741 through Moraine and Miami Twp. Taulbee’s car slid into the path of a Moraine police cruiser chasing a stolen Jeep, the driver of which was seeking to flee Moraine police after the vehicle was reported stolen, authorities said.
Taulbee’s car collided with the cruiser driven by Officer Matt Barrie after her vehicle was hit by another car seeking to avoid the oncoming stolen Jeep, according to the OSHP.
Both the Jeep – driven by Alyssa Irwin-Debraux of Dayton - and the police cruiser were reported to have reached speeds of 80 mph, records show.
Irwin-Debraux wrecked the Jeep near the Dayton Mall and was arrested. Earlier this year, she was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
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