Coma-stricken car crash victim and Firelands High School teacher James Muth remains on the minds of his students.
Firelands district students have been raising money for Muth and Donald Kneisel, the drivers who collided in a Nov. 22 head-on crash on Russia Road in New Russia Township.
Muth, 39, was in critical condition Wednesday at Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland. Kneisel, 79, has been discharged from the hospital.
Joe Miller, Muth’s friend and social studies teacher, said each high school class is collecting pennies in a competition to raise funds for Muth’s family. Miller said Wednesday about 40,000 pennies had been collected.
Classes can “bomb” each other’s donation jars by adding silver change and dollars, which will add negative points to the class’s total. The class with the most positive points will receive a pizza party from Lorenzo’s in Oberlin, Miller said.
“We’re shooting to collect $1,000 by Friday,” Miller said.
Students from each school also will sell red wristbands with white lettering for $1 starting Monday. The proceeds from the wristband sales will support both the Muth and Kneisel families, Miller said. The wristbands will say, “Family, Friends, Firelands.” Wristbands will be sold at Tuesday’s boy’s basketball game at Firelands High School.
The Firelands volleyball program, grades seven through 12, has been selling mustard seed pins for $5 to remind people to pray for Muth. Pins can be purchased at Firelands High School or South Amherst Middle School. Funds raised will go to the Jim Muth Benevolent Fund, set up at FirstMerit Bank.
Crash witness Aidan McNulty told The Chronicle-Telegram and the Ohio Highway Patrol that Kneisel was driving behind him in the westbound lane when Kneisel attempted to pass him in the eastbound lane and collided with Muth during heavy rain.
McNulty said Kneisel had his lights off, according to an accident report written by Trooper J.R. Glascox of the patrol’s Elyria post. Ohio law requires lights to be on when it is raining.
Sgt. Charles Gullett, a post supervisor, said troopers haven’t interviewed Kneisel, who suffered two broken legs, a fractured pelvis and developed pneumonia during his hospitalization. Gullett said a decision on charges against Kneisel would be made after interviewing him.
Kneisel’s driving record includes being cited for failure to control on April 25 and speeding violations in 2006 and 2007. Kneisel crashed about a quarter-mile from his Russia Road home.
Muth, of Elyria, teaches social studies and his wife, Charlene, teaches eighth-grade language arts at the middle school.
“We just continue to pray and hope for the best for them,” Firelands Superintendent Greg Ring said. “They are wonderful people, wonderful teachers.”
“Our school community and faith community have gone above and beyond in ways I’m discovering daily,” Charlene Muth wrote in a statement. “We want to thank the thousands who have surrounded us in love and support and ask that they continue to hold Jim in prayer.
“We have laid Jim’s future in the hands of our Lord knowing that He will care for Jim from today into eternity.”
Sandra Muth, Jim Muth’s mother, has been regularly updating Muth’s condition at www.caringbridge.org/visit/jimmuth. People who wish to visit the site must provide an email address and a password to sign up for updates.
On Monday, Sandra Muth wrote that Muth’s condition is improving.
“It may seem that we are stuck at waiting for a response. However, there is healing taking place even as I write this,” she wrote. “Please don’t forget Mr. Muth (my Jim) in your prayers.”
Reporter Evan Goodenow contributed to this story. Contact Kiera Manion-Fischer at 329-7123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.