Thursday, April 15, 2004

Speed claims another teen

Middletown junior, 17, killed as car goes off road

By Janice Morse, The Cincinnati Enquirer
and Sue Kiesewetter, Enquirer contributor

Friends of 17-year-old Chase Knecht at the scene of a one-car wreck that resulted in his death Wednesday morning. The car in which he was a passenger was traveling east on Oxford-Germantown Road in Preble County when it hit two fences and ended up in a field.
The Cincinnati Enquirer/GLENN HARTONG
MIDDLETOWN - Three Middletown High School students were enjoying a spring break night when the driver lost control and crashed into a fence, killing one and injuring two others early Wednesday.

Front-seat passenger Chase C. Knecht, 17, a junior, was dead when authorities arrived at the crash scene in Preble County, just north of the Butler County line.

Driver Randell L. Johnson Jr., 18, and back-seat passenger Zack A. Lansdale, 17, were treated at McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital in Oxford and released.

The accident was the latest in a series of deadly crashes involving teens. Since mid-February, 10 crashes involving teens have killed 11 people from Greater Cincinnati. Police blame excessive speed in six of those wrecks, including Wednesday's.

By Wednesday afternoon, Knecht's friends gathered and mourned in a prayer circle at the crash site, on Oxford-Germantown Road, west of Stephens-Young Road.

Johnson was driving a 1999 BMW east on Oxford-Germantown Road about 1:45 a.m. when it went off the road, struck two fences and stopped in a field, said Terry Snowden, Preble County Sheriff's chief deputy.

Investigators were working to determine the car's exact speed and were trying to learn why it went off the road, Snowden said. The Preble County prosecutor will decide whether to file charges.

On Monday, principal Dennis Newell will make a short announcement about Knecht's death, followed by a moment of silence. Counselors will be available for students who are mourning a schoolmate's death for the second time in recent months.

Senior Kristen L. Norris, 17, died in a crash Feb. 14. She, like Knecht, was a passenger in a crash that police blamed on speeding.

In a guest book at Norris' visitation, Knecht had signed his name, Norris' mother, Linda Barrett, noticed Wednesday.

"What a terrible thing for the kids at Middletown High School to have to go through again," she said. "They've already buried one."

Johnson's Ohio driving record shows he was convicted of a June 6 speeding offense. No details were immediately available.


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