The stretch of Old Columbus Road between Springfield and Catawba is one Andrew Stewart’s mother has driven many times, but now she can’t bear to go by it.
“I’m not strong enough,” Nancy Delong said, nuzzling her face into the shoulder of husband Oliver Sanders to hide her tears.
To his family, Stewart, 26, was known as “Teddy,” named after his grandfather Theodore, but also a nickname given to honor his big heart. A teddy bear sits strapped to the pole above the charred grass where Stewart was killed Friday night, along with his girlfriend, Angie Smith, 34, and friend Charles Kerr, 42.
The three died when the vehicle they were in was struck head-on by an SUV just west of Ohio 54 in Pleasant Twp.
That driver, Zachary Fife, 23 of South Charleston, and his passenger, Megan Perkins, 23 of South Vienna, were taken by Careflight to Miami Valley Hospital. Fife was listed in serious condition and Perkins in fair condition Monday, according to hospital staff.
The crash is still under investigation; however, it’s possible Fife could face felony charges given the severity of the crash, said Lt. Matt Cleaveland of the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Springfield post.
“There are several factors that go into play with that, and that’s a huge part of our investigation, is looking at some of these factors as far as reckless operation of a vehicle, any drugs or alcohol,” Cleaveland said.
Stewart’s family said he’d been dating Smith for two years, the pair making a “great team,” and they draw some comfort knowing that at the end, “they were together.”
“I think he wanted to marry her, the way he talked about her. He was head over heels for her,” Delong said. “He loved her crazy.”
Highway patrol officials said Fife was passing in a no passing zone at the time of the collision and was likely driving over the posted 55 mph speed limit. For Stewart’s family, they said it’s difficult to believe anything was worth breaking the traffic laws and causing a crash that took three lives.
“The laws are meant to save lives, they really are,” Sanders said.
Cleaveland said the highway patrol has “pulled out all the stops” investigating the crash, calling in experts in crash reconstruction and units from other posts to assist. Coroner’s reports and toxicology results will also be considered. The patrol is working with the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office on charges, and Cleaveland said it could be a month before charges are filed against Fife.