Four injured in three-vehicle crash on I-77
Ohio State Highway patrolman hospitalized
MARIETTA — An Ohio State Highway patrolman was taken to Grant Medical Center in Columbus on Friday after a semi-trailer crashed into his vehicle during a traffic stop on Interstate 77 just north of Marietta.
Sgt. Eric Knowlton, 39, of Marietta, was headed southbound and initiated a traffic stop on a 2005 GMC Sierra near milepost 3 just before the closed rest stop on the interstate.
But after placing the driver of the GMC in the right, rear seat of his patrol car, a 2016 Freightliner tractor-trailer reportedly traveled right, off the southbound lane and into the berm where the traffic stop was taking place.
“The preliminary investigation indicates that the Freightliner traveled off the right side of the roadway and struck the Dodge Charger,” explained a media release from the patrol. “The Freightliner then struck the GMC Sierra and caused it to overturn.”
“It sent the Sierra flying another 150 to 200 feet or so from where the cruiser was sitting,” said Reno Fire Chief Dan Ritchey, whose teams were called in to assist in the crash Friday morning. “Both vehicles are absolutely totaled, and they’re all lucky to be alive.”
Ritchey said mechanized tools were needed to extricate Knowlton from his vehicle, where he had been sitting at the time of the accident.
“We had to cut the top off the cruiser with the jaws to get Eric Knowlton out of it. They’re something you don’t want to have to use, but they’re pretty handy when you need them,” said Ritchey. “And I called in Williamstown too since I know they have jaws too and are close.”
The crash occurred at approximately 7:44 a.m. Friday and Knowlton was airlifted to Columbus but was reportedly conscious throughout the flight.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office reported that Knowlton sustained broken bones in his right leg.
Meanwhile the Sierra driver, Kaycie M. Hanson, 20, of Wilmington, N.C., and her passenger Matthew J. Henry, 19, of Camp Lejeune, N.C., and the trailer driver David A. Midcap, 53, of Akron, were transported by emergency squads to Marietta Memorial Hospital for their injuries.
Marietta Police Capt. Aaron Nedeff said his officers were dispatched to close both of Marietta’s entrances onto the interstate, protecting the area Friday from additional traffic flow from the city.
“But the incident actually occurred outside of city limits, so we’re not investigating,” he explained.
The patrol’s release Friday said the interstate access ramps were closed for approximately five hours, which Ritchey said was needed because the trailer had crossed over the median and into the northbound lanes before hitting trees on the other side.
Southbound lanes opened about 11:30 a.m. Friday and northbound lanes open shortly after 1 p.m.
“Thank God nobody was headed northbound when it crossed over, or it could have been much worse,” he continued, noting distracted driving puts emergency personnel and first responders at risk for incidents like Friday’s often.
“People just don’t pay as much attention to the road when they’re texting or changing music and stuff while driving,” he said. “That’s why whenever we’re called out to a crash on Ohio 7 or on the interstate we bring a pumper too, more to block the traffic from hitting our team even if it’s not needed to fight a fire.”
He asked that drivers remove distractions while driving to prevent crashes like Friday’s from occurring.
The crash remains under investigation by the Marietta Post of the patrol.
Involved agencies at the scene Friday included: Ohio State Highway Patrol Crash Reconstruction Unit, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Marietta Police Department, Ohio Department of Transportation, Marietta Fire Department, Devola Volunteer Fire Department, Reno Volunteer Fire Department, Williamstown Volunteer Fire Department and MedFlight.