CINCINNATI – A weekend car chase and crash that killed two people and seriously injured two others came after a wildlife officer spotted a drinking, disorderly group in a state park, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol is leading the investigation, and troopers said earlier that alcohol and speed were apparent factors in the crash Sunday evening. Patrol Lt. Wayne Price said Tuesday that the investigation was continuing, with troopers working on a reconstruction of the accident and toxicology reports pending.
ODNR spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said wildlife officer Jason Keller saw people drinking what appeared to be alcohol while “acting disorderly” at Stonelick State Park, in Clermont County, east of Cincinnati. She said he called for assistance and saw people getting into their car with what appeared to be open containers.
“Uniformed officers attempted to stop the vehicle, but the vehicle accelerated away at a high rate of speed,” McCorkle said in a statement.
Troopers say the driver lost control of the 2005 Saturn L300 sedan when it came over a hill crest while heading south on Ohio Route 727 at about 7:20 p.m. The car hit an embankment and trees, then continued across and off the right side of the road, the patrol said.
McCorkle said ODNR officers discovered the vehicle had crashed, and administered first aid until emergency crews arrived.
The wildlife officers have been placed on administrative duties pending a full internal review of the incident, she said.
“At this time we have no reason to believe there was any wrong doing,” McCorkle said in a statement, adding that it is standard procedure to evaluate pursuits to make sure policies were followed.
The Highway Patrol said two backseat passengers were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver and another passenger were flown to the University of Cincinnati hospital with serious injuries, the patrol said. No update on their conditions was immediately available Tuesday.
Price said the driver was “obviously traveling at an unsafe rate of speed,” but other details were still being investigated. He identified the driver as Paul M. Chisenhall, 36, of Goshen. Also injured was front-seat passenger Christina Singleton, 31, of Newport, Kentucky, the patrol said.
The ODNR said its officers are helping patrol investigators.