Officials warned of ‘accident waiting to happen’ before Butler County fatal rest stop crash

The death of a popular Trenton restaurant owner shows the dangers of over-crowded rest areas, a common occurrence with the increase in registered trucks and growing number of miles traveled, officials said.

Fei Ni, also known as “Peter,” 39, of Trenton, who owns Dragon China in Trenton, was driving his SUV Wednesday morning when he rear-ended a parked tractor-trailer on the left side of the entrance ramp to the rest area, just south of Monroe on I-75.

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The driver of the semi, Michael Vosburg, 36, Lawrence, Mich., was asleep inside the tractor-trailer when it was hit, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Ni, alone in his vehicle, was killed, and the cause of the accidental death was multiple traumatic injuries, according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office.

Vosburg awoke upon the impact but was not injured. He was issued a traffic citation for parking in a posted no-parking zone, according to the highway patrol.

It’s common in Ohio — including on I-75 and I-70 — to see trucks lined up on the berm of state rest area ramps because no spots are available in the parking lot.

“When you see trucks around ramps or you see them alongside the road, that’s just an accident waiting to happen,” said Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express Trucking in Dayton and the former chairman of the American Trucking Associations, told this news organization late last year. “Our government should be providing truck parking.”

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The practice of parking on the berm is legal in Ohio, but illegal in some states.

“We would always encourage commercial truck drivers to plan their driving hours so they can find an available rest area or truck stop for rest periods. For emergency purposes,stopping on a ramp is an option, but only if no signs are posted prohibiting parking,” said Lt. Robert G. Sellers, spokesman for the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said last year. “If they must stop on a ramp, it would be recommended to pull off on the ‘on-ramp’ portion so they are clear of highway traffic.”

On Wednesday night, about 12 hours after the fatal accident, semis were lined up on the entrance and exit ramps of the same rest area. All of the parking spaces were filled.

Ni’s death was the fifth fatal crash in Butler County this year, according to statistics from the state patrol. There were 28 fatal crashes in Butler County in 2018 and 31 fatalities in the county in 2017.

In the state, there have been 191 fatal crashes this year, and during the same time period in 2018, there were 193.

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Ni’s death sent shockwaves through Trenton, where he and his family have owned and operated Dragon China, 8 E. State St., for about 15 years, according to Chris Metro, owner of the Domino’s in Trenton.

On Thursday morning, 24 hours after the accident, about 35 bouquets of flowers had been placed outside the restaurant that will be closed for three days because of a family emergency, according to a sign posted on the door.

There also were balloons and three large posted boards with the words: “Trenton Loves You.” Customers wrote notes to the Ni family on the boards.

One read: “So sorry for the loss of such a beautiful soul. He will be missed. You are in our prayers. The Craig Family.”

Metro said Domino’s Pizza, 650 W. State St., will host an all-day fundraiser April 2 with proceeds going to Ni’s family. Metro said 50 percent of sales that day will be donated, and he hopes Trenton businesses will donate raffle items.

The Trenton community has “stepped up” to help Ni’s family, his wife and five children, Metro said.

“We’re a small town,” Metro said. “We come together.”

He said Dragon China is “a staple” in the Trenton community. Much of the success, Metro said, can be traced to Ni, who always “had a smile and was positive.”

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