Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Teen crash fatality drunk



By Janice Morse
Enquirer staff writer
and Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

Jessica Dekelaita 17, Britany Simmons, 17, Crissy Alley 17, gather at the scene on Washington Boulevard where Steven Philpot, 18, was killed and Danielle Combs, 18, was seriously injured in an auto accident.
(Glenn Hartong/The Enquirer)
HAMILTON - An 18-year-old man was intoxicated and is believed to have been the driver of a car that plunged into a ravine, killing him and injuring another teen, authorities said Tuesday.

An autopsy revealed Steven Philpot's blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit of .08 for drivers over age 21, the legal drinking age, said Richard Burkhardt, the Butler County coroner.

"I feel bad for the family for losing their son," Burkhardt said. "But the real fact is that he could have killed any number of innocent people."

Based on evidence from the Washington Boulevard crash site, investigators are confident Philpot had been driving and likely speeding, Burkhardt said. Investigators also found beer bottles.

Both Philpot and Danielle Combs, 18, of Milford Township, were thrown from the car. Combs survived, although she lay undiscovered for six hours. She was in serious condition in University Hospital on Tuesday.

Relatives think Philpot was taking Combs home at the time of the crash. They had been dating a few weeks, said Cherie Daley, a Philpot family friend.

In a written statement Tuesday, Combs' relatives said doctors think her injuries are not life-threatening. They thanked well-wishers, Hamilton police and Russell Caudill, the man who found the wreckage and reported it to police.

Philpot was a 2004 graduate of Hamilton High School, where Combs had attended.

He is among at least two dozen Greater Cincinnati teens to die in traffic crashes this year.

Hamilton High principal Dennis Malone said the deadly trend makes him wonder how driver-training programs might be improved.

Students "hear the information and they take it to heart - for a while," he said. "Then it wears off. Six months down the road, it's a little easier to go faster."

E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com and suek@infionline.net.




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