Margaret and Wilbur McCoy
The 24-year-old man whose speeding car crashed into a minivan Thursday night on the Ohio Turnpike near Fremont, killing a Toledo couple, faces two counts of vehicular homicide with a reckless-driving specification.
Andrew Gans of Kent, Ohio, was arrested Friday on the charges, the highway patrol said. He was taken late Friday to the Lucas County jail, where he was held without bond pending a court appearance, after receiving medical attention at a Toledo hospital.
Killed in the fiery crash in Sandusky County’s Rice Township, about three miles west of the turnpike’s State Rt. 53 interchange for Fremont, were Wilbur and Margaret McCoy, both 77.
“They’re such good people,” said Kathy Dixon, a neighbor of the couple for six years. “They’re very sweet.”
The McCoys’ minivan was westbound on the turnpike at 7:19 p.m. when it was struck from behind by a vehicle moving more than 125 mph, officials said.
The van and the 2013 Infiniti M56 driven by Mr. Gans burst into flames after the collision, highway patrol Lt. Anne Ralston said.
The Toledo couple were wearing seat belts and were trapped inside the burning van, the highway patrol said.
Mr. Gans suffered nonlife-threatening injuries and was taken to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, where he was to have undergone a psychiatric evaluation, Lieutenant Ralston said. A hospital spokesman said Friday there was no public information about the patient.
Lieutenant Ralston said investigators had spoken to Mr. Gans, but did not elaborate on the nature of the conversation. No information was released about why Mr. Gans was driving so fast or where he was going.
Highway patrol dispatchers began receiving emergency calls describing a speeding and erratic driver at 6:58 p.m.
Soon after, a westbound trooper was passed by the speeding Infiniti, which officials estimate was traveling between 125 and 150 mph. The trooper activated the cruiser’s lights and siren, but reported losing sight of the car.
Near milepost 107, about 18 miles east of the crash, another trooper spotted the speeding car. That trooper also was unable to stop the vehicle or catch up before losing sight of it, officials said.
Troopers did not see the car again until they came upon the crash.
Josh Pickett of Toledo, who had been passed by the Infiniti and later became stuck in the backup behind the crash, said he waited 4½ hours before traffic got moving again, using the left shoulder to get by wreckage still littering the roadway.
Some people ran out of gas, others needed jump-starts to restart their cars, and some took cover in roadside brush to relieve themselves for want of a restroom, Mr. Pickett said. One person from another car in the traffic jam was taken away in an ambulance for treatment of some unknown medical problem, he said.
Mr. Pickett said he was able to hold out until reaching the next service plaza west of the crash scene; when he arrived the parking lot was empty, but it filled rapidly, he recalled.
Highway patrol Staff Lt. Clifton Spinner said the collision’s severity and resulting coroner's investigation prolonged the delay for motorists who already had gotten past the Route 53 interchange before the turnpike was closed.
Within 25 minutes, Lieutenant Spinner said, the turnpike’s incident response team had posted signs, trucks, and staff to divert westbound motorists off the toll road at the State Rt. 4 interchange near Bellevue, about 21 miles east of the scene, as well as at the Fremont exit.
But backing people up from beyond Route 53 to allow them to exit there was a time-consuming process and did not start for several hours, he said.
Coroner’s investigators were not initially sure how many bodies were in the burned vehicles, and thus initially ordered that no blankets be placed to shield the wrecked vehicles from view because that might compromise the investigation, the lieutenant said. There also was a debris field about a mile long, he said, because the Infiniti had clipped several other vehicles before the final, catastrophic crash.
“Any time you have an accident this extensive, especially with loss of life, that’s going to take precedence over delay and sitting in traffic,” Lieutenant Spinner said.
Jeffrey and Mac McCoy, sons of Mr. McCoy, said they only learned of the deaths Friday morning. They declined to comment further.
Ms. Dixon and another neighbor, Bernadine Marsrow, said Mr. McCoy did renovation work on a house he owned near the Michigan state line like it was his full-time job.
He would come at 8 a.m. and stay there, working on various projects, until 5 p.m., when he went home to the West Toledo residence he shared with Mrs. McCoy.
The couple had been married only a few years, Mrs. Mars-row said. She recalled Mr. McCoy, “Mac” as all his neighbors called him, saying the two met in high school, but later met again when he worked at a home-improvement store in his post-retirement days.
“He was a real nice guy,” Mrs. Marsrow said. “You never think it’s someone near to you.”
Mrs. Marsrow said she recently spent more than an hour talking to Mr. McCoy at his kitchen table after he showed off some of the remodeling he’d done. They talked about the renovations, about Toledo, and politics.
“Once you started talking to Wilbur, you couldn’t get away,” she said. “He was very interesting to talk to and he loved to talk to other people.”
Mr. Gans is expected to have an extradition hearing in Toledo for potential transfer to Sandusky County, where he would face the crash-related charges.
Mr. Gans had no known criminal history, and his recent traffic record was limited to a single speeding ticket issued by Streetsboro, Ohio, police in 2011, when he was cited for driving 55 mph in a 30-mph zone.
Lieutenant Ralston could not be reached Friday for more details about the crash.
Staff writer David Patch contributed to this report.