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County briefs: Sept. 14, 2007


Stammitti plans re-election bid

ELYRIA — County Sheriff Phil Stammitti wants to stay on the job.


Stammitti, who has been in office for the past seven years, announced Thursday that he will seek re-election next year.

In a news release, Stammitti said he still has several issues he wants to address, including overcrowding in the county jail, creating a mental health court and increasing the number of road patrol deputies.

Stammitti — and any potential challenger — must submit their fingerprints for a criminal background check, a process the sheriff has already begun.

Firefighter’s condition improving

A firefighter struck by a motorist at the scene of a motorcycle-deer accident in Henrietta Township late Tuesday could be released from a Cleveland hospital in the coming days, said Florence Township fire Chief Bob Rennie.

Florence Township firefighter Patrick Finnegan, 57, suffered a severe leg injury Tuesday night after being struck by a car while directing traffic near the scene. Finnegan was flown from the scene to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where his condition has steadily improved, Rennie said.

Finnegan had surgery on his left ankle, and doctors installed pins to help heal a bone fracture. Finnegan’s leg will likely be in a cast for weeks, followed by months of physical therapy, Rennie said.

The driver of the motorcycle that struck the deer, Norwalk resident Howard Wilde, 51, was in good condition at MetroHealth Medical Center on Thursday, and the motorcycle passenger, Wendy Russell, 48, of Norwalk, was released from the hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Donald Bechtel, 88, of Birmingham, was the driver of the vehicle that struck Finnegan. Bechtel told Ohio Highway Patrol troopers that he swerved to avoid Finnegan but didn’t see him until it was too late. Troopers are still investigating the crash, and Bechtel could face charges for assured clear distance or failure to yield.   

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