Driver in deadly I-75 crash had blood-alcohol 3 times legal limit

Published: Saturday, February 13, 2016 @ 3:30 AM
Updated: Wednesday, June 01, 2016 @ 5:12 PM

            ODOT has released video of a wrong-way crash on interstate 75 in Dayton that left 5 people dead. ODOT released the video as a result of a public records request from WHIO.
ODOT has released video of a wrong-way crash on interstate 75 in Dayton that left 5 people dead. ODOT released the video as a result of a public records request from WHIO.

Wrong-way crashes by the numbers:

4: Deaths in Clark County since late 2013

22: Wrong-way collisions reported in 2013 and 2014 in Clark County

37: Percent of wrong-way crashes on divided highways in Ohio result in fatalities

64: Percent of wrong-way crashes on divided highways occur in rural areas

Unmatched coverage

To bring you this story, I-Team reporter Katie Wedell analyzed public safety data from every county in Ohio and talked with multiple safety experts about efforts to curb wrong-way crashes.

Explore the numbers

Go to for an interactive map of two years worth of wrong-way crash reports in Ohio.

A coroner’s report released from the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office showed the death of the at-fault driver, James Pohlabeln, in the February wrong-way crash that killed five people was accidental.

  • Autopsies complete of 5 killed in wrong way I-75 crash
  • At-fault driver had blood alcohol level nearly 3x legal limit
  • At-fault driver was released on OVI charge day before crash
  • At-fault driver’s death ruled accidental


The wrong-way driver in the February crash on Interstate 75 that killed five people had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, according to a toxicology report.

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No one, including the wrong-way driver, survived the Feb. 13 crash near downtown Dayton.

James Pohlabeln had a suspended license and had threatened suicide in the past, but in a report released Wednesday, the Montgomery County Coroner ruled the deaths of all five people were accidental.

Pohlabeln, 61, died as a result of multiple blunt force trauma, according to the report.

His vehicle struck head-on with a sports utility vehicle, killing four young friends: Kyle Canter, 23, of New Carlisle; Earl Miller II, 27, of New Carlisle; Vashti Nicole Brown, 29, of Dayton; and Devin Bachmann, 26, of Huber Heights.

The toxicology report for Canter, the driver of the vehicle Pohlabeln’s struck, shows a positive screen for substances including tetrahydrocannabinol, the active drug in marijuana, and a blood-alcohol content equivalent of more than twice the legal limit of .08.

Coroner’s office officials could not say definitively whether these substances impaired Canter’s ability to drive.

About 33 hours before the deadly crash, Pohlabeln was involved in another suspected drunk driving incident, according to court records. He was arrested on a suspected drunk driving charge in Dayton.

Customers at a local bar said Pohlabeln threatened to kill himself Feb. 12 — just hours after he had been released from jail on the earlier crash.

In November, his wife, Marcy Pohlabeln, called police after he sent her text messages that said, “he wanted the police to kill him,” according to records obtained from the Dayton Police Department.

Police searched places Pohlabeln frequented and checked the motel where he was staying, but they were unable to locate him in November.

After his brother died in November, Pohlabeln called his wife, threatening suicide and “suicide by cop,” according to the police report.

“Marcy said James drinks a lot,” wrote Officer Harry Dilley in a police report. “… James said he wanted the police to kill him.”

Before Pohlabeln’s wife called police, she received a text message from him that said, “Hey I’m about to get killed by the cops? Death by cop!! That way!”

At the time, the couple was estranged and Pohlabeln had moved out of their home.

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