Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Driver had suspended license


Sheriff says alcohol could be factor in fatal crash

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HIGHLAND TWP., Ind. — The 18-year-old driver in the crash that killed two teen passengers this weekend had an indefinitely suspended license and a record that included five guilty pleas for speeding and reckless driving, according to Ohio Department of Public Safety records.

        Bradley A. Ranz of Colerain Township remained in critical condition at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, while the families of two of his 18-year-old friends, James “Eric” Harris and James Schoenlaub, both from White Oak, made funeral arrangements.

        “Right now, it looks like they didn't stop for the stop sign and turned in front of the semi,” Franklin County Sheriff Eldon Cornelius said Monday. “The driver said they didn't stop.”

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        Another group of teen-agers, following Mr. Ranz's car, gave police the same account. Alcohol is suspected, the sheriff said. The teens are thought to have attended a party in Western Hills earlier Saturday.

        According to records obtained Monday by The Cincinnati Enquirer, Mr. Ranz pleaded guilty four times to speeding and once to reckless driving between July 1998 and June 1999. He also was involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle during that time but was not charged.

        His Ohio driver's license was suspended on Dec. 24, 1999 — one day after his 18th birthday.

        The suspension was to be in effect until Aug. 24, 2004. But because he had failed to meet other requirements, his license was suspended indefinitely, records show.

        “As parents, you want to freeze them when they're 10, 11,” said Adam Ross of Mount Airy, whose stepson, Kevin Spath, was asked to go with the boys but declined. “Then you still think, it won't be long before they want to get in cars, you can't hold onto them.”

        As he recalled how he and other mourners gathered at Mr. Harris' mother's house Sunday, his voice cracked with emotion.

        “Maybe kids will learn,” he said. “Let this not be wasted.”

SERVICES
  Visitation for James “Eric” Harris, 18, will be 9:45 a.m. to noon Friday at Church of the Little Flower in Mount Airy, followed by a Mass of Christian burial. Memorials can be made to the La Salle High School Tuition Aid Program.
  Visitation for James Schoenlaub, 18, will be 5-9 p.m. Wednesday at Frederick Funeral home in Groesbeck. Mass of Christian burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. James Church in White Oak. Memorials may be made to the James F. Schoenlaub Memorial Scholarship Fund c/o La Salle High School.
        All four passengers were recent graduates of LaSalle High School. Mr. Ranz graduated from Colerain High.

        And Mr. Schoenlaub had planned to major in criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati in the fall. The teens were on their way to a graduation party in Indiana when they collided with a tractor-trailer.

        The sheriff also revealed Monday that:

        There were open beer cans in the 1999 Acura Integra, which is registered to Mr. Ranz's mother, Catherine.

        “We don't think anyone was wearing a seat belt,” the sheriff said.

        The teens had gotten lost and were returning to U.S. 52 when the crash occurred.

        Both of the boys killed were in the back seat, the sheriff said.

        One passenger, David Kaiser, 18, remained in critical condition at Miami Valley. Another, Eric Giordano, 17, remained in serious condition at Good Samaritan Hospital.

        The driver of the semi, James Hill, 38, of Sunman, Ind., was not hurt.

        “It's all tragic and something that we have to deal with,” the sheriff said.

       



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