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Published: Friday, 3/30/2012

Forum debates airing dash-cam video of crashes

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dave Kielmeyer of Bowling Green State University, left, Brian Trauring of WTVG-TV, Channel 13, and Bill Gergich talk about the airing of a dash-cam video of the wrong-way crash that killed the driver and three BGSU students. The Press Club of Toledo presented the event. Dave Kielmeyer of Bowling Green State University, left, Brian Trauring of WTVG-TV, Channel 13, and Bill Gergich talk about the airing of a dash-cam video of the wrong-way crash that killed the driver and three BGSU students. The Press Club of Toledo presented the event.
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Holland resident Bill Gergich had no desire to see the dash-cam video and photos of wreckage from a fatal wrong-way crash on I-75, just north of Bowling Green, earlier this month.

After local media broadcast and posted to various Web sites heavily-edited versions of video, provided by the State Highway Patrol, Mr. Gergich emailed Brian Trauring, the executive news director of WTVG-TV, Channel 13, asking why the station would show the video.

Channel 13 was only one media outlet to show parts of the video, which was the topic of discussion Thursday morning at a Press Club of Toledo forum, hosted at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library downtown.

"What information was gained from watching that video?" asked Mr. Gergich, a local financial adviser.

Early in the hour-long forum, news segments from WTVG-TV, Channel 13; WUPW-TV, Channel 36, and WNWO-TV, Channel 24, were shown as they aired. The Blade has a version of the video on its Web site, toledoblade.com.

Each of the clips show Highway Patrol Trooper Phil Mohre driving north in the left lane of I-75 north and then moving into the right lane as a vehicle, driving south in the left lane, headed straight for him.

The video shows the trooper turning around and driving the wrong way to pursue the vehicle and its driver, later identified as Winifred "Dawn" Lein, 69, of Perrysburg Township.

None of the video showed the actual crash, and only FOX showed smoke coming from the scene as the trooper approached.

Lein was pronounced dead at the scene. Also killed in the March 2 crash were Bowling Green State University students 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 hurt seriously.

The students were on their way to the Detroit Metro Airport, headed to the Dominican Republic for spring break.

The entire in-car video from the Highway Patrol is 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 footage.

"Even today seeing that video ... gives me chills," said Mr. Trauring, a member of the three-person panel, who said WTVG carefully chose what to air 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-aged 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 as well by all media.

Also on the panel was Bowling Green spokesman Dave Kielmeyer.

He said the university did hear from concerned community members, asking the institution to step up and see if something 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 emails about the video -- both before and after the video was posted to toledoblade.com -- than any story reported in the past two years.

Greg Braknis, The Blade's Web News editor, who was in attendance Thursday but did not participate on the panel, said there was concern from the community as to whether the trooper did everything possible to prevent the crash.

Showing parts of the video, he and others said, would allow viewers to decide if enough was done.

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 decision-makers might think more about what they're showing and the impact. He also said that watching the emotional video could prompt people to make a difference by contacting their legislators to enforce change.

Mr. Gergich said, after the forum, his views had not changed.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following video may be offensive to some viewers.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.



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