THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo
After three Bowling Green State University students were killed early this month, as was the wrong-way driver who struck the vehicle the students were in, local media outlets showed video taken by an in-car camera from the State Highway Patrol.
Broadcasting the video and making it widely available to the public was the topic of a Press Club of Toledo forum Thursday, hosted at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library downtown.
“What information was gained from watching that video?” asked Bill Gergich, a financial adviser from Holland who said the video should never have been shown on television or made available online.
Early in the forum, clips were shown as they were aired by WTVG-TV, Channel 13; WUPW-TV, Channel 36, and WNWO-TV, Channel 24. The Blade had a version of the video on its Web site, www.toledoblade.com.
Each of the clips showed Highway Patrol Trooper Phil Mohre driving northbound in the left lane of I-75 and then moving into the right lane as a vehicle, driving southbound in the left lane, headed straight for him. The video shows the trooper turning around, then driving the wrong way, to pursue the vehicle and its driver, later identified as Winifred D. Lein, 69, of Perrysburg Township.
None of the video showed the actual crash, and only FOX showed smoke coming from the crash as the trooper approached the scene, just north of Bowling Green.
Lein was pronounced dead at the scene; also killed as a result of the crash were Christina Goyett, 19, of Bay City, Mich.; Sarah Hammond, 21, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, and Rebekah Blakkolb, 20, of Aurora, Ohio. Two other passengers — Kayla Somoles, 19, of Parma, Ohio, and Angelica Mormile, 19, of Garfield Heights, Ohio — were seriously injured, but have since been released from the hospital.
The Bowling Green students were on their way to the Detroit Metro Airport, headed to the Dominican Republic for a spring break vacation.
The entire in-car video from Highway Patrol was about 25 minutes long; each of the clips shown was substantially shorter and in some cases on-air reporters said that, out of respect for the victims’ families, they would not show the crash or parts of the rescue effort from the dramatic video.
“Even today seeing that video ... gives me chills,” said Brian Trauring, a forum panelist and executive news director at WTVG.
Mr. Trauring added that the portion of the video that was shown was carefully chosen and edited because much was “inappropriate.”
His sentiments were echoed by The Blade’s Managing Editor, Dave Murray, who was not on the panel.
Mr. Murray, who said he sent text messages to and called his college-age daughter immediately after hearing of the crash to check in, added that, in the full-length video, audio from the crash scene could be heard.
That was deliberately edited out and not part of the video shown by any media.
Also on the morning’s panel, which lasted for about an hour, was Bowling Green State University spokesman Dave Kielmeyer, who noted that his expressed opinions were his and not necessarily the university’s.
He said the university did hear from concerned community members, asking the institution to step up and see if there was something that could be done to keep parts of the video from being shown by the media, but that the university did not.
Dash-cam videos are public record.
“Shortly after the accident, we were aware there was dash cam,” Mr. Kielmeyer said. “We were dreading it.”
Kurt Franck, executive editor of The Blade, said that he received more e-mails about the video — both before and after the video was posted to toledoblade.com — than any story reported in the past two years.
Mr. Murray, at the end of the discussion, said the forum would not change how The Blade decides what to show or not show, but the decision makers would think more about what they’re showing and the impact.
“We need to talk to the public more,” Mr. Franck added.
Mr. Gergich said, after the forum, his views had not changed.
Editor's Note: The following video may be offensive to some viewers.