COLUMBIA TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Several weeks after a fatal car crash claims the lives of four Brunswick High School students, a newly released crash report reveals the teen driver was traveling 69 mph when the car went airborne over a set of railroad tracks.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the car was heading west on Boston Road in Columbia Township when it went airborne over a railroad crossing. The report also indicates the car flew more than five feet into the air and traveled a length of 89 feet before it landed on the ground.
Once the car flew over the tracks, troopers say the driver, Jeffrey Chaya, 18, overcorrected and traveled off the left side of the road. The car struck a ditch, hit a tree and then overturned before it landed on its top. The lone survivor, Julia Romito, 17, told troopers she does not remember the moments leading up to the crash.
Lt. Travis Hughes with OSHP Elyria Post said three of the students were wearing seatbelts and drugs nor alcohol were a factor in this crash.
“Everyone can draw their conclusions, we have nothing substantial or factual to back that up they were in fact jumping the tracks,” said Lt. Hughes. “When you combine excessive speed, driver inexperience and a situation like that, unfortunately you have a tragic outcome like this.”
According to the report, the car was traveling at a higher rate of speed than other vehicles that had “jumped” the tracks and landed before. Evidence at the scene also indicated there was no braking on the part of the driver before or after the car touched down.
Neighbor Mike Arena said has lived near the tracks for 16 years. He said he’s witnessed many accidents near the tracks that have resulted in injury.
“It was very sad. It shouldn’t have happened,” said Arena. “There are times, we’ll be sitting looking out the window. A car will pull into the apron. Kids will get out and film another car jumping the tracks.”
Lt. Hughes said, “We’ve investigated five traffic crashes in that area within the last three years. The last fatal in that area involving the railroad crossing occurred in 2006.”
Following the accident, the posted speed limit of 55 mph has been reduced to 25 mph near the crossing and flashing stop signs have been installed.