The Ohio State Highway Patrol is trying to figure out what caused a man to drive for about 10 miles in the wrong direction on Interstate 70, resulting in a fatal head-on crash early Sunday morning.
Francois Hagenimana, 24, of Kettering, was heading west in the eastbound lanes on I-70 when his car collided with a car driven by Jason Fricke, 28, of Westerville at around 3:09 a.m., according to investigators.
Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene, neither vehicle was carrying passengers. Officials at the Clark County Coroner’s Office estimated the preliminary cause of death for both men was blunt force trauma.
“You can only imagine both vehicles going around the speed limit of 70 mph and when you get a head-on crash with those kind of speeds it’s usually pretty bad,” said Lt. Matthew Cleaveland of the state patrol.
At least seven people called 911 reporting that they had seen a car going the wrong way on I-70 with its brights on, travelling an estimated 75 miles per hour. “There was a car on the wrong side of the highway going really fast and it almost hit me,” one fearful caller said.
“Me, a semi and another car in front of us, we all just swerved and missed it by like an inch,” another 911 caller said.
Based on 911 call logs, the first report of a driver going the wrong way came in at 2:58 a.m. That caller claimed they saw Hagnimana near mile marker 69, about seven miles from where the crash happened.
Coroner’s investigators are awaiting a toxicology report to know if drugs or alcohol played a part, officials from the state patrol were unavailable to comment on the investigation.
A deputy from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office arrived to the scene about four minutes after the collision and noted that the two cars were about 300 yards apart from one another. Debris was spilled across the roadway and Fricke had been ejected from his vehicle.
Hagenimana, a native of Rwanda whose goal for early 2014 was to become a U.S. Navy SEAL, was frolicking on a Florida beach with the rest of the Centerville football team and staff Saturday before their flight back to Dayton following a last-second victory in Naples, Fla., Friday night.
A 2008 graduate of Centerville, where he played football, wrestled and ran track, he returned to the school as an assistant coach this year.
“The guys took it really hard,” said head Centerville coach Ron Ullery, who coached Hagenimana and hired him to work with the team’s defensive cornerbacks.
“They are having to deal with something many of them have never dealt with before.”
Hagenimana earned a football scholarship to Ashland University, where he received his degree in the spring.
Centerville math teach Alan Bair, who was Hagenimana’s wrestling coach, said, “Francois’ family fled Rwanda due to the genocide. He came to this country with very few possessions.”