Brunswick Tragedy: Safety Concerns

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COLUMBIA TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Students from Brunswick High School gathered at a roadside memorial on Monday to mourn the loss of four friends killed early Sunday in a one car crash in Lorain County’s Columbia Township.  

The Ohio Highway Patrol is investigating how fast the car was traveling when it hit the railroad tracks on Boston Road, went airborne and eventually crashed into a ditch and a tree. Killed were the driver, Jeffrey Chaya, 18, and three of his passengers,  Kevin Fox, 18, Blake Bartchak, 17, and Lexi Poerner, 16. A fourth passenger, Julia Romito, 17, survived the crash and is being treated at Southwest General Hospital.

Columbia Township resident Judy Arena, who lives near the crash scene, told Fox 8, “I’m in my room and I hear this horrific crash, a sound that unfortunately I’ve heard many times over, oh my God, I run outside and this was the worst one I ever seen.”

Arena said local high school students view jumping the tracks as a sport, and use the long approach to the tracks to build up speed before going airborne. She pointed out grooves in the road, where some of the cars bottomed out when they landed.

“Kids would sit in their cars in my driveway. Kids would get out of their cars and another car, friends, would jump the tracks, they would take pictures, it was like a game, who was going to get the most air”, said Arena. “They don’t get it, they don’t get it.”                 

OSP Sgt. Tim Dearmitt told Fox 8 troopers have been working with students at Brunswick High and other Medina County schools to get them to understand ways to limit the risk they face on wide open country roads, hills, curves and rail crossings.

“You combine the high rate of speed and teens are less likely to wear seat belts than adults, and then you combine that with the number of occupants in the car, unfortunately it leads to tragic circumstances,” said Sgt. Dearmitt.

Those who mourn along with the friends and relatives of the victims hope that other young drivers are watching and learning.

“My God, be safe, teach them about the hazards, teach them that a car is a lethal weapon, you might as well have a gun in your hand”, said Arena.

She and other residents are now asking state and local authorities to install stop signs and additional warning signs at the crossing.

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