Sunday, May 05, 2002

Crash spurs speedup of light hookup

Teen remains in critical condition

By David Eck
Enquirer contributor

        MONROE — Work to finish new traffic lights at a busy Butler County intersection accelerated after a serious accident there injured two Monroe High School students April 26.

        Ohio Department of Transportation and Cinergy officials said the signal at Ohio 63 and Yankee Road is expected to be fully operational Thursday.

        “Obviously, with the accident that occurred, that really necessitated the need for power hookup to be expedited,” ODOT spokeswoman Kim Patton said. “We did everything we could to try to get the power supplied as quickly as possible.”

        ODOT crews had finished their work on the lights before the crash, but Cinergy needed to provide power to them before they could be activated.

        The intersection is currently a two-way stop on Yankee Road only; Ohio 63 traffic does not stop. The volume and speed of traffic on Ohio 63 prevented drivers on Yankee Road from easily and safely entering Ohio 63, ODOT officials have said.

        On a sunny Friday last month, Hannah Brooks was giving Nathaniel Russell a ride home from Monroe High School, where the two 18-year-olds are seniors. They had just dropped off another friend and were heading south on Yankee Road approaching Ohio 63. Nathaniel was riding in the back seat.

        “The last thing I remember is Hannah saying she couldn't wait until the lights get fixed,” Nathaniel said. “I know that would have prevented it. I think it's ironic. It's kind of weird.”

        Witnesses say Hannah stopped at the intersection, but then pulled out into the path of a tractor-trailer traveling west on Ohio 63. The truck driver tried to miss the Hyundai Elantra, but ended up hitting it on the driver's side. The impact pushed the car into the Ohio 63 median.

        Medical helicopters carried Hannah and Nathaniel to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton where Hannah remains in critical condition. Nathaniel said he had three broken vertebrae in his neck and a cut in his arm that required 19 stitches. Doctors took bone from his hip and fused it into his neck. He was in the hospital for several days.

        “There was just one step left in the (new traffic light) process and unfortunately that wasn't complete before an accident happened,” Ms. Patton said. “It's definitely frustrating when the improvements are almost complete, and then something like that happens.”

        Cinergy officials said they rushed the order to hook up the light after the crash.

        “It was going through the normal process,” Cinergy spokesman Dave Woodburn said. “Rather than wait for the paperwork to be completed, our supervisor sent a crew out there Thursday morning.”

        As of Friday, drivers on Yankee Road were greeted with a flashing red light, while there was flashing yellow for drivers on Ohio 63. New signs tell drivers that the light will be fully activated on Thursday.

        ODOT officials have said a year-long study of traffic volume determined the need for a light.

        According to the latest figures available, there were five accidents at the intersection in 1997; seven accidents in 1998, and five in 1999.


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