Patrol: Brake not used in driving school deaths


The investigation into an April traffic crash that resulted in the deaths of a student driver and his instructor found that the young driver did not engage the brake pedal as he approached a stop sign.

The Key Driving School Inc. vehicle had a passenger-side brake pedal, but officials said extensive damage to the vehicle prevented them from testing its functionality, Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. William Bowers said. The lieutenant said the report was completed Monday.

The lieutenant said the vehicle was inspected Nov. 19 and the brake was operational.

Killed in the April 28 crash at Heller and Neapolis-Waterville roads were Joseph Franks, 16, of Swanton and his driving instructor, Thomas Smith, 48, of Whitehouse. The driving-school vehicle was southbound on Heller when it failed to stop at a stop sign and was struck by an eastbound minivan on Neapolis-Waterville.

The minivan was driven by Kathleen Woods, 48, of Swanton.

Lieutenant Bowers said Ms. Woods told investigators she was talking on her cell phone at the time of the crash and “never saw the vehicle coming.”

Neither vehicle took any evasive action to avoid the crash. No charges were filed.