Saturday, August 05, 2000

Chief denies radar linked to crash

Witness says cars braked for speed trap

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ARLINGTON HGTS. — Police Chief Chuck Huff denied allegations Friday that an officer running radar on a stretch of Interstate 75 may have contributed to a crash that killed a Germantown woman.

        But a West Chester man who witnessed Thursday's accident told the Enquirer it appeared that Raymond Delscamp lost control of his car when vehicles in front of him braked quickly because a police officer was pulled off on the side of the road about 200 feet ahead.

        Mr. Delscamp's 49-year-old wife, Nancy, was killed when the couple's 1993 Toyota Camry spun out of control at 9:30 a.m. Thursday and was broadsided by a semi-tractor trailer.

        “I saw everybody's brake lights hitting when they saw the cop,” said Corey Backstrom, who was in the high-speed lane behind Mr. Delscamp's car.

        “Somebody needs to look into how dangerous these cops are. We need to somehow evaluate the public safety with these radar enforce ments.”

        The three-quarter mile stretch of I-75 at Galbraith Road is known as a speed trap, and is listed as such on a national Web site.

        Thursday's crash wasn't the first time someone was hurt there during speed enforcement. In 1998, Officer Jack Parsons was injured after he was struck by his own cruiser when a drunk driver hit it from behind. At the time, Officer Parsons was out of the police car, writing a ticket.

        Hamilton County Sheriff's officials, who are investigating Thursday's crash, hesitated to say it was linked to the village's traffic enforcement efforts.

        Sheriff's spokesman Steve Barnett said investigators won't know what really happened until they interview Mr. Delscamp, who remained in critical condition at University Hospital.

        “It's the opinion of our officers, back where the accident occurred, you wouldn't have seen a police car on the side of the road,” Mr. Barnett said.

        “We have not talked to any witnesses who could factually say that traffic slowed down because of the police officer on side of the road. Even if they did, it wouldn't mean anything to our report. It was still (Mr. Delscamp's) failure to maintain control.”

        Sheriff's officials said Mr. Delscamp “braked heavily,” sending the car into a clockwise spin. The Camry ended up in the center lane and was broadsided by the tractor trailer. A second car rear-ended the truck, but that car's three occupants were not injured.

        Chief Huff said it would have been impossible for drivers to notice the police cruiser, which witnesses said was parked just past the Galbraith Road exit. He has defended his department's enforcement on the interstate, saying it has reduced crashes significantly since the program started five years ago.

        “I'm saying it couldn't happen that way,” Chief Huff said. “The accident was several hundred feet north of where (the officer) was at. They wouldn't have seen him yet.”

        Mr. Backstrom said he told sheriff's officials that he saw the officer parked on the side of the road, and noticed the three cars in front of Mr. Delscamp brake “in a chain reaction.”

        Mr. Backstrom said he watched the crash through his rearview mirror and saw the truck driver, later identified as Andrew Krug of Fond du Lac, Wis., run to the Delscamps' car waving his arm frantically to get the officer's attention.

        Councilman Roland Heyne Jr., who has waged an unsuccessful five-year battle to reduce the village's interstate traffic enforcement, said he had “no doubt” police were partly responsible for the crash.

        “(They) take the cruiser and put it in a position where it is hidden, where the general public has very little time to notice where they are at,” Mr. Heyne said.

        He said council won't support his push to cut back on enforcement, which generates more than $400,000 annually in fines. He said 92 percent to 95 percent of the village's tickets involve enforcement on I-75. Officers are paid overtime to work in the program, he said.

        Mr. Heyne said he intends to renew a push for police to reduce enforcement on the interstate.

        “I want them off as much as possible. That will (improve) the safety factor,” Mr. Heyne said.

        “I've warned all along for five years; it has endangered innocent lives.”


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