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Police investigating route of wrong-way driver in latest fatal accident

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    The southbound lanes of I-75 are closed near Bancroft Street after a wrong-way crash that occurred about 3 a.m. Monday morning.

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  • Crews-clean-up-on-I-75

    A worker tries to clean up some of the debris on I-75 southbound after the early morning crash Monday.

    <COURTESY OF KAY MILL

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    Toledo police investigate the wreckage of the vehicle on I-75 southbound.

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Crash-3-12

The southbound lanes of I-75 are closed near Bancroft Street after a wrong-way crash that occurred about 3 a.m. Monday morning.

The Blade/Lisa Dutton
Enlarge | Buy This Image

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Two Monroe men were killed Monday morning and another person was injured in the third wrong-way incident in 11 days in northwest Ohio.

The latest crash occurred shortly after 3 a.m. on I-75 near Bancroft Street when a Dodge Charger carrying two people, traveling north in the southbound lanes, smashed head on into a truck.

The The driver of the car, Ronnell Richards, 37, of Monroe, and his passenger, Khary Phenix, also 37 and from Monroe, were extricated from the vehicle and taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, where they were pronounced dead.

The driver of the Penske truck, 27-year-old Kevina Thomas from Toledo, was also taken to Mercy St. Vincent, but does not appear to have life-threatening injuries. She was treated and released several hours later.

Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said during a Monday morning news conference that investigators do not know where Richards and Phenix were coming from or where they got on the interstate.

The sergeant said there was no evidence yet to say whether Richards had been drinking and driving, although police won’t know for sure until they find out where the men were coming from and they receive the results of a toxicology report from the Lucas County Coroner’s office.

Toxicology reports typically take anywhere from six to eight weeks to complete.

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Driver of the Dodge Charger Ronnell Richards, left, and his passenger Khary Phenix were both killed in the crash.

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He would not comment on whether there was anything in the vehicle to indicate the men were drinking.

The first 911 call came just moments before the crash occurred when the Charger narrowly missed another motorist, Sergeant Heffernan said. Several additional calls were made to 911 after the crash occurred.

Police also do not yet know how fast the Charger was driving, but crash reconstructionists will likely be able to determine an approximate speed, Sergeant Heffernan said.

Reconstruction could take a day or two to complete, the sergeant added.

The southbound lanes of I-75 reopened at 9 a.m., after being closed at Collingwood Boulevard.

On March 2, a wrong-way driver caused a crash on I-75 north of Bowling Green near State Rt. 582 that killed her and three sorority sisters from Bowling Green State University.

RELATED ARTICLE: Memorial set for 3 BGSU students killed in crash

Winifred “Dawn” Lein, 69, of Perrysburg Township died in that crash which also killed Christina Goyett, 19, of Bay City, Mich.; Sarah Hammond, 21, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, and Rebekah Blakkolb, 20, of Aurora, Ohio. Another passenger - Kayla Somoles, 19, of Parma, Ohio, remains in critical condition in Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, where Angelica Mormile, 19, of Garfield Heights, Ohio, also a passenger, is no longer at the hospital.

Authorities are still trying to determine what caused Lein to drive the wrong way. She had left work at the Jeep plant at 1:47 a.m. and the crash occurred less than a half hour later. Several witnesses told the Ohio Highway Patrol that her car was speeding at the time of the wreck.

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A worker tries to clean up some of the debris on I-75 southbound after the early morning crash Monday.

COURTESY OF KAY MILL Enlarge

The third wrong-way driver -- Lydia M. Jablonski of Holland - appeared Friday in Maumee Municipal Court on one count of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and a divided-highway violation.

She refused to take a breath test for alcohol Wednesday night after she was stopped after hitting a car in the parking lot of an establishment at Levis Commons and then striking a car while driving the wrong-way in the southbound lanes of I-475 near State Rt. 25 in Wood County. After receiving a 911 call, a trooper drove onto I-475 southbound from the Salisbury Road ramp and observed a car northbound in the southbound lanes. The car then crossed the median and continued north on I-475, exiting the highway at Salisbury.

Jablonski is due back in court April 10 for a pretrial hearing.

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