Saturday, November 27, 1999

'Ramping' unconfirmed in wreck

Police hope for more info from survivor

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Victim's friends stand next to the utility pole struck by the students' car after it crested the hill.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — At 74.6 mph, Jordan Walker's red Mustang was traveling nearly 20 miles over the speed limit and was airborne for 114 feet before it crashed into a utility pole on McClure Road, state patrol officials said Friday.

        But Lebanon post commander Lt. Scott Borden said investigators still aren't sure that Jordan was speeding in an attempt to launch his car over a hill on the narrow road when the fatal crash occurred Wednesday.

        Jordan, 16, and Troy Mullikin, 15, both Mason High School athletes, were killed in the 3:30 p.m. crash in Turtlecreek Township. Mason senior Kris Cathcart, 17, was seriously injured.

        The deaths were among five traffic fatalities — four of them juveniles — in Greater Cincinnati since Wednesday.

J. Walker
T. Mullikin
K. Cathcart
        “It's speculation that they were launching. The only three people that are going to know are the three people in the car,” said Lt. Borden.

        “The one boy who survived has not told any official source that was what they were doing. We have no specific information that that occurred.”

        Kris, a front-seat passenger in Jordan's car, told troopers he did not remember what happened, Lt. Borden said. The teen was upgraded Friday to fair condition at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. Troopers hope to interview him again when he recovers more fully to help pinpoint the cause of the crash.

        As the parents of Jordan and Troy arranged the funerals of their sons, Mason school officials made plans Friday to counsel classmates when school reopens after the holiday break next week.

        Ministers and other counselors will be available to teachers and students, interim Principal Amy Spicher said.

        “Obviously, it is a great tragedy, and it will have a very large effect on the students. It's a devastating thing when you lose two students. They were very well known,” Mrs. Spicher said.

        Friends of Jordan and Troy held vigils earlier this week and talked about the crash that killed the sophomores.

        They told the Enquirer that launching, also called “ramping” or “hill surfing,” was a favorite teen pastime on McClure Road.

        Even though residents in the area said they frequently hear cars jumping the hill at high speeds on weekends, Lt. Borden said there is no data that shows launching occurs or that the road is particularly dangerous.

        There also are no records that indicate residents have reported such incidents to the highway patrol, he said.

        Seventeen accidents have occurred on McClure Road since 1990; Wednesday's crash was the first there this year. There was one in 1997 and there were two in 1998, Lt. Borden said. Half of the crashes since 1990 were blamed on unsafe speed.

        “No one is ruling out the possibility” that young drivers are launching their cars over the hills on McClure Road, he said.

        “What these statistics indicate is that there haven't been reported crashes over launching. Either they do it and they don't crash, luckily, or if they do, they get back out of a ditch before anyone comes.”

        The deaths of Jordan and Troy increased the Warren County death toll to 23 in 20 crashes so far this year, surpassing last year's total by 10. The 13 deaths in 1998 fell one below 1997, state patrol records show.

        That increase is frustrating and disturbing to Lt. Borden.

        Troopers traditionally focus on drunk driving and seat belt enforcement to curtail traffic deaths. But that might not be the right approach in Warren County, where an increase in population, more traffic and hurried lifestyles are blamed for the 77 percent increase in deaths so far this year, Lt. Borden said.

        Only seven of the 1999 crashes involved alcohol, and Wednesday's crash was not one of them, he said.

        After Wednesday, Lt. Borden has decided that troopers, who routinely speak to high school students around prom time about speeding, seat-belt use and drunken driving, will incorporate information about launching into their talks. He also is considering increased patrols on rural roads, including McClure.

        “It's frustrating. These types of incidents are spur-of-the-moment, and there's nothing you can do about it unless you are right there,” Lt. Borden said.

        In the other traffic fatalities:

        • Kenton County police were still looking for the driver of a second vehicle involved in the death of 12-year-old Joseph Longoria while riding his bike Wednesday on Madison Pike near Piner, Ky.

        • In Independence, the parents of 10-year-old Danielle Steffen have called for traffic lights or other safety measures in the 5000 block of Madison Pike, where their daughter was struck by a dump truck as she crossed the road Wednesday.

        Danielle, a fourth-grader at Summit View Elementary School, died early Thursday at Children's Hospital Medical Center.

        “She was a model student,” said Connie Lefaivre, Summit View principal. “She was just a delightful child who was very kind and sincere to her classmates.”

        • Investigators with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office have not determined why an off-duty, rookie Cincinnati police officer on his way home from work Thursday swerved onto a sidewalk on Wooster Pike and hit a jogger in Columbia Township.

        Donald Scalf, 25, was charged with involuntary manslaughter after the 8:10 a.m. incident that killed Lloyd Swaringer, 45, of Wooster Pike.

        TV reports that Officer Scalf swerved to avoid a deer are unfounded and could not be confirmed, sheriff's Sgt. Dave Luke said Friday.

        Officer Scalf, who was released from the Hamilton County jail Thursday after posting bail, has declined to make statements to police, Sgt. Luke said.

        Andrea Tortora and Dana DiFilippo contributed to this report.

        • A joint visitation for Jordan Walker and Troy Mullikin is planned for 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Hope Evangelical Free Church, 4934 Western Row, Mason. A funeral for both boys will begin at 11 a.m. Monday at the church. Jordan and Troy, who were best friends, will be buried close to each other at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, said Mike Ryan, funeral director at Shorten & Ryan Funeral Home in Mason. Their families have suggested memorial donations in their sons' names to the scholarship fund at Mason High School.


Kentucky, Ohio high in traffic fatalities
- 'Ramping' unconfirmed in wreck
Police seek driver in boy's death
Price Hill boy, 11, struck crossing street
Schools get diversity grant
ALS patients, friends refuse to be defeated
At Bloom, students catch up
School's love embraces teacher's grief
Sheriffs going back to school
Art on the rocks
CSO shines under Hirokami's baton
Mojo worked at Music Hall
Craft fair draws crowd with cash to spend
Engineers doubt wisdom of night road work
Knowing poverty led woman to give
Man, 19, accused in shooting death
Money search to decide mill's fate
Neighborhood shops inspire D.C. exhibit
Whitewater forming own sewer agency