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I-70 crash: Wrong-way driver’s death a suicide

Published: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 @ 2:01 PM
Updated: Tuesday, July 07, 2015 @ 7:57 PM


            Investigators still trying to understand head-on crash on I-70
Investigators still trying to understand head-on crash on I-70

UPDATE @ 515 p.m. (July 7): The death of Christopher Coleman, the 35-year-old driver from Xenia in the I-70 wrong-way crash on April 14, was a suicide, the Clark County coroner has determined.

The ruling is based on all the evidence and reports provided, the coroner said in a prepared statement released by the Ohio Highway Patrol post in Springfield. During the autopsy, there was Cannabinoids (THC) present in Coleman’s blood at the time of the crash, the coroner said in the statement.

The other driver, 64-year-old Craig Martin of Steubenville, was slightly injured in the crash, according to the patrol.

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UPDATE @ 3 p.m. April 15:

Christopher Coleman had a lengthy driving record, but the Ohio State Patrol has confirmed he held a valid driver’s license. We are working to find out more about the man who reportedly crossed the interstate and apparently drove intentionally head on into a semi. We’ll have the latest on NewsCenter 7 beginning at 5 p.m. tonight.

UPDATE @ 1:45 p.m. April 15:

The driver who hit the semi after going the wrong way on I-70 has a long criminal record.

Christopher Coleman served time in an Ohio prison for aggravated robbery in a Greene County case. He went to prison on Feb. 14, 2003, and served nearly five years.

Valerie Coleman, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Corrections, said Coleman was either arrested or violated his post release control in 2011. He completed his parole on April 2, 2013.

According to court records, Coleman had an extensive driving record, including multiple charges and convictions of driving under suspension, the latest in November 2014.

UPDATE @ 10:30 a.m. April 15:

Authorities had received a 911 call about a wrong way driver on Interstate 70 just 16 seconds before the fatal crash occurred.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office got the first 911 call about the wrong way driver at at 1:45:30 in the afternoon, and the first call about the collision came in at 1:45:46.

UPDATE @ 9:19 p.m. April 14: The investigation into the deadly, head-on two-vehicle crash on I-70 East will include the possibility that the wrong-way driver who plowed into a semitrailer committed suicide, said Sgt. Richard Dixon, Ohio Highway Patrol.

He noted that the crash, which shut down the eastbound lanes for approximately four hours, remains under investigation.

Dixon said investigators have a video of the crash recorded by Jason, a Huber Heights resident who was on his way home from his job in Springfield when the accident occurred. The state patrol also has video recorded from the nearby Speedway corporate office headquarters in Enon, the sergeant said.

Jason, in an interview after the accident, said, “It looked like the semi driver was trying to get away from it … but you really can’t predict a car is gonna come right at ya. I honestly think it was intentional, suicide.”

Chris A. Coleman, 35, of Xenia, died at the scene after he was ejected in the collision involving his 2009 Mazda 3 and a 1998 Freightliner semitrailer hauling steel coils, just east of milepost 48, the Springfield OHP Post said in a statement released tonight.

Craig S. Martin, 64, of Steubenville, who was driving the semi, refused medical treatment at the scene, according to the patrol.

UPDATE @ 7:29 p.m. April 14: I-70 East has been reopened, a dispatcher with the Ohio Highway Patrol said.

UPDATE @ 4:50 p.m. April 14: An eyewitness who recorded the deadly head-on two-vehicle crash on I-70 East said he believes the driver of the car purposely caused the accident, that it was “intentional, suicide.”

The fatality has been identified as Chris A. Coleman, 35, of Xenia, according to crash investigators.

The eyewitness, identified only as Jason (he asked not to be identified by his full name), said the car was in front of him when it suddenly whipped through “one of those U-turn emergency areas” on the interstate.

“All of a sudden, they just drove right at that semi,” Jason said. “It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. My phone actually dropped a little bit … because I couldn’t believe what I had seen.”

Jason, a machinist who works in Springfield, has spoken with a 911 operator about what he saw and told the dispatcher about his cellphone video. He was on his way home from work early when the grisly scene unfolded before his eyes.

“It took me a second to even comprehend what I had just seen,” he said. “It looked like the semi driver was trying to get away from it … but you really can’t predict a car is gonna come right at ya. I honestly think it was intentional, suicide.”

When the car jumped over to the other lanes, the driver veered right for the oncoming traffic, the eyewitness said.

“I seen it live and got that rolling through my mind,” he said. “I don’t need to watch the video” anymore.

FIRST REPORT

The Ohio Highway Patrol confirms that one person has been killed in a crash on Interstate 70 East in Clark County this afternoon.

The deceased person was in a car that was driving the wrong way in the eastbound lanes, according to the state patrol. The car crashed head-on into a fully loaded semitrailer shortly before 2 p.m. and both vehicles erupted in flames.

The driver of the semi was able to escape without injury.

The semi was hauling rolls of steel, and the steel was on the highway and on fire when crews arrived.

Initial reports indicate 150 gallons of diesel fuel has spilled, and the EPA has been called to the scene.

As of 3:30 p.m., eastbound lanes were still closed. Officials are hoping to have the highway reopened by 5 p.m.

The best alternate route for motorists on Interstate 70 can exit at Spangler Road, go north on U.S. 40 in Medway, go east on U.S. 40 to U.S. 68 in Springfield, go south on U.S. 68 and back onto eastbound I-70.