Traffic backed up on the Ohio Turnpike on Thursday.
Photo courtesy of Ty S. Mahaffey
FREMONT — Two people in a minivan were killed on the Ohio Turnpike near Fremont on Thanksgiving night after a car traveling more than 125 mph - with state troopers in pursuit - rear-ended the minivan and both vehicles burst into flames, the Ohio Highway Patrol said.
The crash happened about 7:18 p.m. about 40 miles southeast of Toledo.
The car was moving at such a high speed that state troopers say the driver likely did not realize they were in pursuit, far behind.
"He was traveling that fast," said Sgt. Matt Davis, who added that patrol cars, which can typically travel at up to 130 mph, couldn't get close to the speeding car.
WTOL-TV reported that officials said the speeding vehicle was traveling between 125 mph and 150 mph and hit at least three other vehicles over the course of 17 miles.
Andrew D. Gans, 24, of Kent, Ohio, who allegedly was driving the speeding car, was taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center with minor injuries.
Highway Patrol Lt. Brett Gockstetter told AP Radio that the driver of the car was traveling at a high rate of speed and weaving in and out of traffic. He said the car crashed into the back of the minivan, which had two adults from Toledo in it.
However, the identity of the two adults in the minivan remains unconfirmed, Sergeant Davis said. The bodies were so badly burned that authorities want to check dental records, even though they suspect they know the identity of the deceased.
Sergeant Davis said he had difficulty overnight in reaching relatives, likely because of the holiday.
The turnpike’s westbound lanes were all reopened by 1 a.m.
Late on Thanksgiving night, which is typically a busy night on the turnpike, traffic was at a standstill for up to three miles.
The car and the minivan had both been traveling west on the turnpike in Sandusky County's Rice Township, according to the patrol.
The car, traveling at a high speed, struck the minivan in the rear, according to the patrol. The car then went off the right side of the road and caught fire just as the driver got out, according to the patrol.
The minivan came to rest in the center lane, where it caught fire while the two occupants were inside, the patrol said.
Both vehicles were so severely damaged that the patrol said it was unknown whether occupants of either had worn seat belts.
Two westbound drivers who spoke to The Blade from near the scene of the crash described being passed by a car traveling well in excess of 100 mph, while a state patrol cruiser was following from a considerable distance but also at high speed with lights and siren activated.
Josh Pickett of Toledo said he was headed home from Thanksgiving with relatives in Cleveland when the high-speed driver passed him, followed perhaps a minute later by the cruiser.
“I was going 76, and the guy passes me like I was standing still,” Mr. Pickett recalled.
He said he saw the cruiser’s lights gradually pulling ahead of him in the distance for the next few minutes, and then suddenly the traffic came to a halt “and I saw really big flames.”
Ty Mahaffey, a Toledo resident who practices law in Sylvania, said he saw a single male in the car as it blew by him “at an enormously high rate of speed. ... I have never seen a passenger car going so fast.”
“I was going 80 — I probably shouldn’t go that fast — and when he passed me it was like I was going in reverse,” Mr. Mahaffey said.
The car “was not a high-performance vehicle” and it appeared to be having trouble keeping a grip on the pavement while it “was zigzagging through traffic.”
Mr. Mahaffey said he briefly pulled over to collect himself after the experience, was passed by a trooper after he started up again, then came upon traffic stopped at the crash scene. He said the trooper “was not that close” behind the high-speed vehicle when it passed him.
The lawyer said he was shaken up because, under different circumstances, it could have been his vehicle — and his family — involved in the collision had he been in the way.
“He could have hit anybody along this way,” Mr. Mahaffey said. “It could have been me, you know? I feel like, wow. You’re driving along the turnpike, minding your own business, and then you’re dead. It’s hard for me to comprehend. These people were minding their own business.”
Blade staff writers David Patch, Taylor Dungjen, and Jane Schmucker contributed to this report.
Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.