Troopers urge caution after 5 die in Clark, Champaign crashes

Five people died in car crashes in a one-week span this month in Clark and Champaign counties and troopers warn that as the weather warms up, it’s important for drivers to stay vigilant.

A two-vehicle crash that killed 61-year-old Debra Lock in Champaign County and injured four others was the latest in the string of deadly accidents.

“(We) have seen been a bunch of deaths in our area but none of the crashes follow the same pattern,” Sgt. Merrill Thompson with the Ohio State Highway Patrol Springfield Post said. “All of them are unique in their own way.”

» READ MORE: 1 confirmed dead, several injured in crash on U.S. 36 in Champaign County

Because the recent crashes didn’t happen for the same reason, Thompson said, it’s tough to prevent the next one.

“I would tell people to make sure they are paying attention to the roadway,” Thompson said. “And not just the car in front of them but the traffic up ahead as well.”

So far this year, four people have died in fatal crashes in Clark County and two people have died in crashes in Champaign County. Those numbers are similar to last year, the state patrol statistics show. Five people had died in car crashes in Clark County at the same point in 2017 and one person had died in Champaign County by the same time last year, according to the data.

The latest deadly accident was reported about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, near Mechanicsburg when a truck and an ambulance collided at South Parkview Road and U.S. 36. Lock died and four others were flown to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.

Christopher Bopp, 51, of Kenton, was no longer listed as a patient at Miami Valley on Monday. But Jeremy Fetters, 21, of Plain City, and Mark Stith, 23, of Marion, remained in critical condition, a hospital spokeswoman said. Matthew Wallen, 21, of St. Paris and the driver of the truck, remained in serious condition.

» RELATED: Victims ID’d in double fatal crash north of New Carlisle

Other fatal crashes in the area included a two-vehicle crash in Pike Twp on March 16.

That crash killed Vickie Owens, 46, of Springfield, and Roger Littlejohn, 75, of New Carlisle. They collided on Ohio 235, according to an Ohio State Highway Patrol report.

Two pedestrians also died in separate crashes, one in Clark County and the other in Champaign County, while they were trying to help other motorists.

Dena Portis, 32, went to help someone stranded in their car on Old Springfield Road in the early morning hours of March 13. The woman was returning to her vehicle, which was parked in the roadway, when she was struck by another car as it veered to avoid a head-on crash with her parked car, according to the state patrol.

» READ MORE: Patrol: Driver in fatal Clark County crash swerved to avoid parked car

Then a man was killed on U.S. 68 on March 14 after rear-ending another vehicle, according to the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office. Jacob Hite, 23, of Wauseon, Ohio, had exited his vehicle to check on the driver of the SUV he had struck when he was hit by a third vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The deaths are tragic, Thompson said, and it’s important to take safety precautions when out on the road.

“In my experience, when it starts getting warmer, people tend to not wear their seat belt as much because they feel safer,” Thompson said. “They also tend to travel a little faster.”

By the numbers

4: Crash deaths in Clark County so far in 2018

2: Crash deaths in Champaign County so far in 2018

5: Crash deaths in Clark County at the same point in 2017

1: Crash death in Champaign County at same point in 2017

Unmatched Coverage

The Springfield News-Sun digs into important public safety issues in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent coverage of traffic ticket rates in Clark County mayor’s courts and efforts to widen Interstate 70.

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