Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Harrison man charged in auto fatals

Butler Co. preliminary reports called wrong

By Janice Morse
Enquirer staff writer

HAMILTON - The crash that killed a Butler County couple has led to charges against a Harrison man in a case that shows how inaccurate preliminary information - and witness statements - can be, police said Tuesday.

Contrary to previously published reports, David Brinkman, 51, of Morgan Township, was not at fault in the Oct. 23 three-vehicle crash that killed him and his wife and hurt two other motorists, said Butler County Sheriff's Capt. G. Michael Grimes.

The positions of the vehicles, damage on the vehicles and patterns of scattered debris helped traffic-crash reconstructionists determine that Benjamin B. Holbert, 21, of Harrison, caused the crash by running a stop sign at Ohio 748 and Layhigh Road in Ross Township, Grimes said.

Initial witness statements "didn't quite jibe" with the physical evidence, Grimes said, noting that "preliminary investigations are just that - preliminary." Also, he said, witness perceptions may be influenced by other witnesses' statements and by the traumatic experience of seeing a fatal crash.

The incident shows the need for people not to jump to conclusions before investigators thoroughly complete their tasks, Grimes said.

Holbert is charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and a stop-sign violation. Vehicular homicide is a first-degree misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months.

Holbert told police he had made a wrong turn, was in unfamiliar territory and, because of heavy rain, didn't see the stop sign as his 2000 Dodge Dakota pickup traveled southeast on Layhigh around 7:45 p.m. that Saturday, Grimes said.

Brinkman was driving a 2004 Chevrolet Aveo compact northeast on Ohio 748. Brinkman had the right of way when the Dodge went through the Layhigh stop sign and struck the driver's side of the Aveo, Grimes said. The Aveo slid into a utility pole and the Dodge hit a 1997 Pontiac Grand Am. That car's driver, Debra Cole, 42, was treated at the scene. Holbert was taken to Fort Hamilton Hospital.

Cole and Holbert both were wearing lap and shoulder belts.

But Brinkman and his wife, Sherry, 50, were unbelted, a crash report says. Sherry Brinkman was thrown from the wreckage. If she had been belted, she might have survived, Grimes said. Both died at the scene.

The Brinkmans, who had been married 26 years, left a grown son, Keith, and a foster son, Robert Robinson, among other survivors.

David Brinkman was a champion weightlifter with the U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Federation and worked as a steamfitter and maintenance supervisor at Seagram's Distillery.

Sherry Brinkman worked in the Miami University personnel department and was a Sunday school teacher at the church.


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