Friday, April 2, 2004

Little Miami mourns for teen


High-speed rural crash kills passenger

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

SPECIAL REPORT
Careless teenage drivers on Collision Course
HAMILTON TWP. - Sorrow has enveloped Little Miami High School, the ninth Greater Cincinnati school to mourn a teen traffic death in the past seven weeks.

"The silence was deafening here today," Principal John Spieser said Thursday, as the 793-member student body grieved the loss of sophomore Michael Montag. "I see kids embracing one another, adults embracing one another."

Counselors, ministers and psychologists helped students deal with the tragedy.

Since Feb. 14, nine teen-involved crashes have killed 10 people in Greater Cincinnati. Nine of the victims were teens, prompting police crackdowns and calls for legislators to tighten driving laws.

Montag, 17, was pronounced dead just before midnight Wednesday at Miami Valley Hospital, about four hours after a high-speed Salem Township crash - which police said could have been avoided if the vehicle he was riding in had been traveling at the 55-mph speed limit.

Montag and Zach Demaree, 15, of Blanchester were passengers in a 1989 Honda Accord driven by Troy Couch, 16, of Pleasant Plain, when it crashed into the rear of a pickup truck that had stopped after striking a deer.

Demaree and Couch were both in fair condition Thursday at area hospitals.

None of the three teens was wearing a seat belt, and the vehicle lacked air bags, said Kevin Bryant, an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper who is investigating Wednesday's crash.

Around 8 p.m., Aaron Bullock of Morrow struck a deer in his Ford F-250 pickup truck while northbound on Morrow-Woodville Road, just north of Gheils-Carroll Road. Moments later, Trooper Scott Adams - heading southbound on Morrow-Woodville by chance - stopped alongside after noticing the damaged truck.

"He was only there five to 10 seconds, and he saw (the boys') car coming at a high rate of speed ...The only thing Scott could do was yell, 'Run!' " Bryant said. Bullock got out of the way and escaped injury; Adams moved his cruiser to avoid being hit. He also hoped to make room for the Accord to veer around the truck.

Couch had crested a hill about 230 feet away from the stopped truck.

He hit the brakes.

The car skidded 198 feet and slammed into the pickup's rear end.

"If this car had been traveling 55, this car would have been able to stop in somewhere around 160 feet," leaving 38 feet between it and the truck, Bryant said.

The impact pushed the truck forward and spun it around.

As for the car, "the whole front end was pretty well demolished and pushed back," Bryant said.

Bryant said his calculations of Couch's speed are not final. But the "visual estimate" Adams made - 75 mph to 80 mph - is probably close, he said.

Including this crash, speed was a factor in five of the nine recent teen-involved wrecks. "Experience tells you that you don't go flying down a narrow county road at a high rate of speed," Bryant said, "because you don't know what's over that next hill or around the next curve."

Couch's state driving record shows that he had held his driver's license for less than nine months.

On Nov. 29, he was convicted of failure to yield in a Warren County crash; a one-month suspension of his license ended Jan. 7.

Recent teen fatal crashes

Feb. 14, Middletown: Driver Joey Adams, 19, and passenger Kristen Norris, 17, both of Middletown, were killed in a 96-mph crash into a utility pole. Adams was not wearing a seat belt; unclear whether Norris had used one.

Feb. 16, Franklin: Driver Timothy Justin Hoff, 19, of Franklin, was killed when his car crashed into a tree. Passenger Bethany Riley, 17, of Miamisburg, was seriously hurt. Hoff was not wearing a seat belt and was speeding 21 mph over the limit, police said.

Feb. 22, West Chester Township: Driver Dominic Broderick, 18, of West Chester, was killed after a crash into another car and a utility pole. He was intoxicated, police said.

Feb. 27, near Columbus: Driver Joey Wilson, 17, of Reading, suffered minor injuries in an Interstate 71 crash into a guardrail and a bridge. Passenger Andy Ramsey, 17, of Reading was killed. He was not wearing a seat belt. Following too closely was a contributing factor, police said.

Feb. 29, West Price Hill: Driver Christopher D. Voll, of Delhi Township, was killed when his vehicle went off the road and crashed into trees and a parked vehicle. He was intoxicated, authorities said.

March 10, Mason: Driver Benjamin R. Foulke, 17, of Deerfield Township, was killed during an off-road joyride in a Jeep. Two passengers, Ryan P. Blakeley and Ethan C. Howard, both 18, were hurt. Foulke was intoxicated, officials said, and was not wearing a seat belt.

March 19, Hamilton: Driver Joshua L. Poncy, 18, of Hamilton, was killed when his car crashed into a utility pole and two parked cars before landing on the porch of a house. He was intoxicated, police said, and was driving at more than 90 mph. Passenger Timothy R. Sparks, 18, was hurt.

March 30, New Miami: Driver Christopher C. Glenn, 17, ran a red light and crashed into three other vehicles. Passenger Kenneth B. Hughes, 43, of St. Clair Township, was killed. Two other motorists were hurt.

March 31, Salem Township: Driver Troy Couch, 16, and passenger Zach Demaree, 15, were hurt. Passenger Michael Montag, 17, was killed. Police said Couch was traveling about 20 miles over the speed limit when his car crashed into the rear of a stopped pickup truck.

E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com




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