Ohio State Highway Patrol eyes trends in fatal crashes

MARIETTA — Excessive speed, alcohol and seatbelt usage are suspected as contributing factors in at least one recent fatal crash in Washington County, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Justin Jones, 32, of New Matamoras, was killed on Thanksgiving Day when he was driving southbound on Ohio 7 near Newport. Jones drove off the left side of the highway and struck a guy-wire and a tree. No other vehicles were involved and an investigation is ongoing, according to Sgt. S.E. Buxton, a supervisor with the highway patrol Post 84.

“There were containers (of alcohol) all over the scene and it was obvious there was no seatbelt use,” Buxton said. “But we just don’t have much more than that at this point, because it was so recent.”

Buxton said that the accident will be recreated in an attempt to determined what happened exactly but because no one else was involved, there likely won’t be any charges.

It is just the most recent of a string of fatal accidents over the past month, one of which claimed the life of both a Stockport man and a Marietta woman. Buxton said he has seen more fatal crashes in Washington County in the last year than in his entire 16-year career.

In Washington County, there have been eight fatal crashes reported by the Ohio State Highway Patrol thus far this year, which is two more than both in 2016 and 2015.

Fatal crashes across Ohio totaled 1,024 in 2012, 918 in 2013, 919 in 2014, 1,029 in 2015 and 1,054 in 2016.

On Nov. 8, OSHP responded to a crash on Ohio 60 south of Lowell. Michael Montgomery, 46, of Stockport, was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the other vehicle, Jordin Brannan, 22, of Marietta, was transported by Med-Flight to OSU Medical Campus where she later died from injuries sustained in the crash. Buxton said Brannan went left of center and struck Montgomery.

“In cases like this, where both parties are deceased, it becomes a civil issue, usually played out between the families after several years have passed,” Buxton said.

Lt. Chris Chesar said Brannan was found at fault in the crash and she was wearing her seatbelt at the time. Montgomery was reportedly not wearing his seatbelt at the time.

“As with all fatals we attempt to collect blood samples to check for the presence of alcohol,” said Chesar. “Those will still take months to get results back but we do not believe alcohol was a factor in this case.”

An accident in late October claimed the life of a 49-year-old Newport woman, Teresa Fillmon. Fillmon was riding her bicycle north on Ohio 7 when she was struck by a motorcycle also traveling north and driven by Duane C. Wilcox, 71, of Newark. Fillmon, who was wearing a helmet, was pronounced dead at Marietta Memorial Hospital.

“The crash has been forwarded to the prosecutor for review but no charges (for Wilcox) are expected in the case,” Buxton said.

(Writer Janelle Patterson contributed to this story.)