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Fatal crash leads to questions about speeding

A day after three Tecumseh High School students died in a crash in Springfield Twp., nearby residents said speeding has long been an issue on Ridge Road.

They also questioned whether changes need to be made to the road and township officials said they would be willing to examine it.

“It’s a racetrack for some unforeseen reason. It’s the worst road in the county if you ask me. You have railroad tracks, creek bridges, turns, dirty road,” said Mike Cox, who lives on Ridge Road near one of the victims of the crash.

Wesley Culpepper, 15, of Huber Heights; Charles Luthe, 16, of Springfield; and Daniel Tittle, 17, of Medway, were killed after the car they were riding in ran off the road at a high rate of speed and smashed into a tree, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The car split when it hit the tree, breaking into pieces.

It was the first fatal crash in Clark County and one of the worst troopers said they had seen.

Springfield Twp. officials have said they haven’t received any complaints about Ridge Road.

But township Trustees Jim Scoby and R. Dean Wells said they would be willing to investigate any concerns brought to the board.

Seven crashes have occurred on the road between 2008 and 2012, according to the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee. Three of the crashes involved injuries and six of them occurred on the straight part of the road.

TCC Director Scott Schmid said there’s nothing out of the ordinary about Ridge Road.

Schmid said rural roads typically have more curves than urban streets.

“Any place where the speeds are higher, you’re going to have higher severity crashes,” Schmid said.

He hasn’t received information from the Ohio State Highway Patrol about the Ridge Road crash yet, but said the TCC would be willing to examine the road.

TCC participates in the Clark County Combined Health District’s Safe Communities Coalition, which also includes representatives from the county, law enforcement officials and others. The group discusses traffic fatalities and other traffic safety issues.

Safe Communities Coordinator Anita Biles said the group has been discussing the Ridge Road crash and it will be on their agenda at a meeting next week.

Coalition members make presentations at schools related to seat belts, speeding, underage driving, drinking and driving, and distracted driving.

“Our goal is to lower traffic fatalities,” Biles said. “Initially, in 1999, we had 25 to 35 fatalities (a year). It was extremely high. Last year we had 14.”

The group was scheduled to make a presentation at Tecumseh High School in four weeks that would have included a mock fatal crash and funeral.

The presentation was postponed until next year due to the deaths of Culpepper, Luthe and Tittle.

Springfield Twp. Trustee Jim Scoby said he has driven along the road where the crash occurred many times.

Scoby, who also teaches traffic courses in Clark County, said it’s too early to discuss what led to the crash until investigators complete their report.

“I’ve been out there and I know you have to be careful. But it’s sad, whatever happened,” Scoby said.

Cox said the Luthe’s have lived across the street from him for less than a year.

He described Luthe as polite and kind.

“I’m very concerned for his family and our hearts go out. My wife is extremely upset. I’m upset. I can’t imagine the heartbreak that is,” Cox said.

Friends and classmates also mourned the loss of the three teens. Tecumseh students held a vigil Wednesday night. The school had grief counselors available at the school today and will again on Monday, when students return from spring break.

Courtney Wooley said she was on the phone with Luthe just before the crash.

“Charles lives around here and they were all staying the night with Charles,” Wooley said. “He told me he was going to get off the phone, and I said OK, and that was the last time I talked to him.”

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