Family and friends are grieving today after three Tecumseh High School students died Wednesday morning in a horrific crash, smashing into a tree near a curve neighbors said is dangerous.
Just before 6 a.m., a car carrying Wesley Culpepper, 15, of Huber Heights; Daniel Tittle, 17, of Medway; and Charles Luthe, 16, of Springfield, ran off of Ridge Road west of Ohio 41 at a high rate of speed, said Lt. Lt. Brian Aller of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
The 2010 Hyundai Sonata smashed into a tree and split into pieces. Aller said it was one of the worst crashes he has ever seen. It’s unclear who was driving and a Columbus team was called in to aid the investigation.
It will likely take days to complete a crash report, troopers said.
“Responding to this type of scene makes me hug my children harder. The tragic and senseless loss of these young men is devastating for not only their families, but the Tecumseh School System and entire Springfield community,” Aller said.
One of the boys, Charles Luthe, is the son of retired Clark County Juvenile Court Magistrate Suzanne Luthe. She retired about a year ago, according to the juvenile court.
Wesley’s Culpepper’s older brother, Jeff Culpepper, said he found out the news of his brother’s death while he was at work.
“We’re just trying to hold it together, process everything,” Jeff Culpepper said. “He was a really good kid, a Christian kid. He loved to hang out with his friends and was a real free-spirited person. He loved to hunt and fish.”
Wesley planned to go into the military, according to Jeff Culpepper. “He was a fun kid to be around,” he said. “He was my best friend.”
Tecumseh sophomore student Sam Algren said he was closest to Charles Luthe, known to friends as “Chas.” He liked to hunt, fish, play football and had been in Junior ROTC.
“It was heart wrenching because I’ve know him for so long and I see all three of them every day walking down the hallway,” Algren said. “And it was just kind of a shock.”
The Tittle family declined to comment and the Luthe family couldn’t be reached for comment.
Neighbor Karen Clinger lives on Ridge Road and said it’s a bad road.
“I’ve seen a lot of people fly down the road,” she said. “I babysit, my babysit parents have to watch leaving because … cars fly around the corner all the time and we have had a lot of near misses.”
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.
Springfield Twp. maintains Ridge Road and Twp. Administrator Jeff Briner said he hasn’t received complaints about the road. The township is continually examining its roads, he said.
Twp. Trustee R. Dean Wells said he would support examining the design of the road to see if it needs improved for safety.
“It’s something that should be investigated,” Wells said.
Michelle Brumfield lives just down the street from the crash site and also said the curve is dangerous and too narrow.
Her son Gavin Montgomery had just met Daniel Tittle a week ago. The two had been fishing together at the creek just down the street from their house and about a half mile from the crash.
Gavin Montgomery had met the other two boys while fishing with Tittle and said Tittle had invited him to a bonfire at the creek Tuesday evening.
Michelle Brumfield lost two step-brothers to a car crash when she was a child and was near tears when discussing the crash Wednesday morning.
“A parent should never have to a bury a child,” she said.
Tecumseh Local Schools Superintendent Bradley Martin released a statement saying the district was grief stricken.
The district has offered counseling to students who needed it, even though it’s spring break. It will also have counselors available for students on Monday.
Students held a vigil Wednesday night at the FFA building behind Tecumseh High School.
“Our thought and prayers go out to the students’ families,” the statement says. “We cannot begin to know what our families and students are going through at this time.”
Staff Writers Yuna Lee and Kate Bartley contributed to this report.