Michael Manning, Sr., said yesterday his 21-year-old son, who police said was with the man they believe dropped a steel railroad plate off the South Ravine Parkway Bridge last week, killing a woman, tried to prevent the act from happening.
Mr. Manning said his son, Michael, Jr., has gone into hiding because of death threats he's received. The younger Manning was freed on bond for felony vandalism after a hearing on Monday in Toledo Municipal Court.
Mr. Manning said his son told Jamie Pacheco, 20, not to drop the steel plate off the bridge Thursday night and was walking away when Mr. Pacheco dropped it, hitting the car of Dorothy Minggia, 42, and breaking her neck.
A 14-year-old runaway was with Mr. Manning and Mr. Pacheco on the East Toledo bridge. He is being held at the Lucas County Juvenile Justice Center, while Mr. Pacheco remained in the Lucas County jail.
"I'm sorry for the [Minggia] family," Mr. Manning said, adding that his son "was throwing pebbles and stones off the bridge.
"He told Pacheco, 'Don't do it, don't do it,' and then [Mr. Manning, Jr.] started to walk away. He didn't know an accident happened until the next day."
Mr. Manning said he knew of his son's friendship with Mr. Pacheco since April, but didn't know how long they knew each other before then. He described Mr. Pacheco as unassuming.
Mr. Pacheco "is kind of scared of his own shadow," Mr. Manning said. "I don't know what would have prompted him to do something like this."
Mr. Manning said he can sympathize with the Minggia family because he lost a brother, David, to gun violence in 1984.
David Manning, a clerk at an Airport Highway gas station, was gunned down during a robbery on Jan. 13, 1984. Joseph L. Clark of Toledo was convicted of the murder and is now on death row.
Mr. Manning said his son has cooperated with police in the investigation and regrets the incident.
Seborne Harris, Ms. Minggia's brother, said his family is concentrating on Ms. Minggia's funeral, which is scheduled for noon today in New Covenant Church of the Living God, 2519 Stickney Ave.
"We're going to let the judicial system handle that," Mr. Harris said. "We can't comment on every little thing they say, because we don't know the truth. What we do know is that all three of them were on the bridge, and my sister is dead. That's what we know for sure.
"Now, for who did what on the bridge, the judge and the jury will decide that. We're still mourning and trying to prepare for the funeral."
During a news conference yesterday, Mayor Jack Ford said a letter to Norfolk Southern Corp. on Monday was followed up yesterday by a staff member's phone conversion with a railroad official, who Mr. Ford said "expressed willingness to work with us to install fencing" at the overpass.
"We have increased police patrols in the area, and have appealed to citizens to call in any suspicious activity," the mayor said. "I have informed my staff that resolving this issue is a No. 1 priority."
Rudy Husband, a Norfolk Southern spokesman, confirmed that the railroad is willing to "sit and discuss" options for improving overpass security.
A financial contribution from the railroad "would be a part of the discussion," Mr. Husband said, though from the company's perspective, "we're talking about highway safety enhancements.
"Obviously, no engineering has been done, so who knows what the costs are going to be," the spokesman said.
Mr. Ford said a very preliminary estimate for putting up a chain-link fence on the bridge over South Ravine Parkway is $30,000 - assuming it is feasible.
Overall, Mayor Ford said, railroad bridges span city streets in 32 other places.
A Blade review of the list shows only two of the structures have high fences that could prevent a vandal from throwing objects onto traffic below, and both have been converted to nonrailroad use: the old Toledo, Angola & Western bridge over Secor Road near the University of Toledo, which is now part of the University-Parks Trail, and a bridge over Fearing Boulevard at Norfolk Southern's Toledo Intermodal Terminal that has been converted into an access road.
Several other bridges on the list are inactive.
Mr. Ford said it is unlikely the city could afford to pay for high fences on all the bridges, and noted that clearance or engineering issues could preclude such installations on some bridges even if they could be paid for.
The city will conduct a review to determine if any bridges have particular vandalism histories so that they may get first attention, the mayor said.
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