Thursday, Jul 28, 2016
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Police & Fire

Student driver, driving instructor killed in 2-car crash south of Whitehouse

A 16-year-old student driver and his driving instructor died today in a two-vehicle crash south of Whitehouse.

Joseph A. Franks, 16, of Swanton and Thomas P. Smith, 48, a driving instructor with Key Driving School, Inc. who lived in Whitehouse, were pronounced dead at the scene of the 2:29 p.m. crash at Heller and Neapolis-Waterville roads in Waterville Township.

Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. Bill Bowers said the patrol’s preliminary investigation indicates young Franks was driving the auto with Mr. Smith serving as his instructor. The vehicle was headed south on Heller when it allegedly failed to stop at a stop sign and was struck by an eastbound minivan on Neapolis-Waterville.

Minivan driver Kathleen Woods, 48, of Swanton was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital for injuries that authorities did not believe were life-threatening. About three hours after the crash, the hospital reported it had no patient listed by that name.

All three involved in the crash wore seat belts.

Both vehicles went off the intersection's southeast side after the impact, with the car young Franks drove overturning and coming to rest in a front yard at a house, Lieutenant Bowers said.

Cars used for driver instruction must have a passenger-side brake, Lieutenant Bowers said. There did not appear to be any signs the vehicles attempted to brake before the crash.

“I don’t believe there was any evasive action by either vehicle,” he said.

The driver-training vehicle will be inspected as part of the crash investigation, which continued tonight.

Bonnie Lech, Key Driving School's owner, said she did not know what happened and would wait for the highway patrol's report. All of the cars owned by the school are equipped as required with two sets of brakes, one for the driver and one for the instructor, she said.

"I am asking everyone to pray for all the people involved. My heart cries out for them. I don't have the words to say how bad I feel because I hurt so bad for them," said Ms. Lech said.

The young Franks had been enrolled last year at Penta Career Center in Perrysburg Township. He was enrolled in the sophomore exploratory program for the 2012-13 school year but was not a Penta student this year, said Superintendent Ron Matter.

The Whitehouse Police Department, Waterville Township Police Department, Whitehouse Fire Department, and the Lucas County Coroner’s Office also responded to the scene.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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