Drunk driver hits Bratenahl police car on I-90 while officer helps stranded school bus

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BRATENAHL, Ohio– A Bratenahl police officer was struck from behind by a car driven by an impaired driver early Sunday morning.

Sgt. Jake Messenger responded to a stretch of Interstate 90 near Eddy Road after a bus carrying members of a high school band broke down. The bus was partially blocking a westbound lane and Sgt. Messenger positioned his SUV behind it, trying to protect the students as they were waiting for a replacement bus. That’s when his vehicle was hit.

It is the fourth time in recent months that a Bratenahl police officer has been struck on I-90. In three of the four crashes, the officers were helping stranded motorists.

In April, Sgt. Messenger was hit by a drunk driver,while he was responding to a fatal accident that was caused by another drunk driver.

Bratenahl Mayor John Licastro said OVI laws are not having the effect desired by lawmakers.

“The number of people impaired in the wee hours of the morning on the freeway is startling. It’s hard to understand the logic in this day and age of Lyft and Uber. Why are they out there driving, putting your life and others, especially first responders, in jeopardy?” he asked.

Investigators said the driver that hit Sgt. Messenger’s SUV, 61-year-old Vernon Wright, of Cleveland, did not have a legal right to be on the highway because his license had been suspended as a result of prior offenses. Wright was arraigned in Cleveland Municipal Court on Monday on charges that include OVI and failure to maintain assured clear distance. Investigators said Wright refused a breathalyzer test.

Licastro is among those asking the Ohio General Assembly to address the drunk driving issue by, among other things, making OVI a felony offense and by making interlock ignition devices mandatory for repeat offenders.

“In trying to help, we put ourselves in jeopardy and we end up in accidents with people that have no business being on the road,” Licastro said.

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