By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - The latest in a series of teen traffic crashes killed one 18-year-old, seriously hurt his best friend -- and cut a swath of devastation that stunned even seasoned investigators.
"This is the worst crash I've seen in this city, damage-wise and speed-wise," Officer Richard A. Miller, a traffic-crash investigator here for nine years.
A COLLISION COURSE
See The Enquirer's analysis of the driving records of recent teen accident fatalities online.
He estimates that a 1994 Lexus was traveling about 90 mph in a 35-mph zone before the crash that killed Joshua L. Poncy early Friday and seriously hurt Timothy R. Sparks. He had been flown to University Hospital and was listed in fair condition Friday evening.
Poncy was the eighth Greater Cincinnati teen to die in a traffic crash within the past five weeks. Most of the fatalities, including Friday's, involved speeding and failure to wear seat belts, police said.
Because Poncy and Sparks were unbelted - and because a third occupant may have left the scene -- police were trying to figure out who was driving Poncy's Lexus before it landed sideways on the porch of an unoccupied home at 404 Eaton Ave.
Bobbie Fox, Poncy's grandmother said that question is almost inconsequential to Poncy's grieving loved ones, who were close to Sparks because the boys had been best friends since age 6. Both were 2003 graduates of Hamilton High School.
"It doesn't matter whose fault it is. We've lost one - and the other is fighting for his life," she said. "We love Tim; our family loves his family...And if everybody would just pray for Tim Sparks, that is what we would want."
Sparks' relatives couldn't be reached for comment.
Fox said Poncy's mother tried to instill a safe driving mindset in her children. "That was preached continuously here in this home," Fox said. "You can tell the kids until you're blue in the face. But once they walk out that door, you don't know what goes on."
Investigators have pieced together this chain of events:
The speeding southbound car crossed the center line, struck a parked vehicle and a curb as it went off the left side of the roadway.
The Lexus slammed into a utility pole with such force that the pole snapped into three pieces.
Then the car traveled up an embankment and went airborne. It bounced off the top of a parked car and into the ceiling of the roof's porch before crashing to halt.
The wreck made such a ruckus, a half-dozen neighbors, some from a block away, started calling emergency dispatchers at 2:20 a.m. "There's a horrible wreck on Eaton Avenue...it sounded bad...there's a car flipped over...the car is on the porch, almost in the damn house."
Butler County Coroner Dr. Richard P. Burkhardt said Poncy died of a crushed skull and was intoxicated at the time of his death.
Fox said Poncy left his home around 11:30 p.m.; his relatives didn't know what happened between then and the crash. Police were investigating reports that Poncy and Sparks had been at a party in Hamilton, then tried to find an attendee who had left. Police said Univesity Hospital had not yet provided them with blood-alcohol test results on Sparks.
Poncy worked various jobs, including waiting tables at restaurants, and saved up to buy his Lexus; he and Sparks loved cars, Fox said.
While records show Sparks has had three speeding convictions - including one last month - Poncy's driving record was clean.
Fox cannot imagine either teen driving 90 mph.
"I don't understand it," Fox said. "None of us do."
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