Tuesday, January 16, 2018 Elyria


Patrol investigation says speed was factor in crash that killed 4 teens


COLUMBIA STATION — A final report from the Ohio Highway Patrol states the car carrying five Brunswick teenagers hit 69 mph before crashing June 3 on Boston Road.

The patrol report, which includes a reconstruction of the crash, also said driver Jeffrey Chaya, 18, front-seat passenger Blake Bartchak, 17, and backseat passenger Julia Romito, 17, were wearing seat belts. Backseat passengers Kevin Fox, 18, who was ejected from the vehicle, and Lexi Poerner, 16, were not wearing seat belts, according to the report.

Chaya, Bartchak and Poerner died at the scene. Fox died the following day at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. Romito, the only survivor, was released from Southwest General Health Center a few days after the crash.

The speed limit is 55 mph on that stretch of Boston Road, just east of Boone Road on the border of Medina and Lorain counties.

The Ohio Department of Transportation conducted a speed study after the accident and determined the limit should be lowered to 45 mph, Ohio Department of Transportation District 3 representative Christine Myers said Tuesday.

According to the Elyria post of the patrol, Chaya’s 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier went airborne over the train tracks that intersect Boston Road on top of an incline. Chaya then lost control of the vehicle, which went off the road to the right and then to the left, striking a tree and flipping back onto the road.

The report from the accident reconstruction details the speed of the vehicle at different points in the crash. When the westbound vehicle went up the incline, hit the tracks and went airborne, it was traveling at 69 mph, the report said.

The report also details damage to the road caused by several cars gouging the pavement as they go over the hill to try and become airborne and cites the location as “well known to residents of the area as an area to ‘jump’ vehicles.”

Lt. Travis Hughes, of the Elyria post, said there is no evidence the Brunswick High School students, two of whom were set to graduate the day of the accident, were attempting a stunt when they crashed.

“It would be complete speculation,” Hughes said.

He added that the only survivor of the crash was not able to complete a statement for the report because she has no memory of the accident.

Columbia Township Trustee Mike Musto said the township will vote Monday to approve lowering the speed limit to 45, but further plans are to level the road.

Any work done in the area, he said, would have to be a collaborative effort among seven entities involved in the roadway: Liverpool and Columbia townships, Medina and Lorain counties, ODOT, railroad corporation CSX and a gas company that has a line under that section of the road.

After the accident, the intersection was equipped with flashing LED stop signs at the base of the incline, gates that come down when a train approaches and warning signs of the railroad ahead with a recommended speed when crossing the tracks of 25 mph.

“The only thing I can think of is to flatten the road,” Musto said. “That’s the only thing that’s going to help that situation over there.”

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.

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