Daughter says wrong-way driver had health problems
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Investigators hope toxicology reports will provide more clues about the wrong-way driver in an interstate crash that killed three sorority sisters, while the woman's daughter said her mother had medical issues and was not a drinker, according to state patrol records released Friday.
Charmaine Lein did not offer details about her mother's health problems, but a witness to the crash said the wrong-way driver was going at least 75 mph and never swerved to miss cars, the records said.
"I was going 75 mph and she was pulling away from me," Volker Kock, a Canadian military medic who kept up with the driver on the other side of the interstate for several miles before the crash, told investigators in a statement.
The State Highway Patrol said Winifred Lein, 69, was driving south in the northbound lanes of Interstate 75 when she crashed head-on into a car of Bowling Green State University sorority members on their way to a spring break trip. The crash killed Lein and three of the students and seriously injured two others.
A second car of Bowling Green students caravanning with their sorority sisters and driving two to three car lengths ahead swerved in time to miss Lein, according to the records.
Kock, of Borden, Ontario, told investigators that as Lein drove, several trucks flashed their lights at her. He said he was on his way to Columbus for the weekend when he saw the wrong-way driver.
Video of the crash released this week shows Kock arriving at the crash scene shortly after a state trooper and working with him to put out a fire in the students' car and try to free the survivors. He refused to call himself a hero.
"I did what anyone else with my training would do," Kock, a Company Sergeant Major at the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre, said in an email Friday.
Lein had left work less than 30 minutes before police received the first 911 call about the car, the patrol said.
The patrol's Bowling Green post said it's still investigating where Lein got on Interstate 75 and how fast she was going.
The post said Lein, of Perrysburg, checked into her job at Toledo's Jeep plant at 5:52 p.m. on March 1 and left the plant at 1:47 a.m. the following day.
The Jeep highway exit is at mile marker 205, or 19 miles from the mile marker where a trooper spotted the car just seconds before the crash. That leaves just 10 minutes of Lein's time unaccounted for, said Lt. D.W. Laubacher.
The patrol says no businesses around I-75 said they saw Lein before the crash. Laubacher said the patrol is hoping toxicology reports in the next few weeks will provide clues.
"The question is, what happened between the time she pulled out and the time the crash happened," he said.
A security guard who checked Lein out of the Jeep plant told the patrol she seemed fine as she left.
Lein had lived in a Perrysburg apartment for several years without any problems, said Bob Bauer, who works for the company that operates the complex.
"We never had a bit of trouble with her. She was an excellent tenant, and a good lady, as far as we know, totally," Bauer said.
The first 911 call about a wrong-way driver came at 2:14 a.m., two minutes before a trooper spied the car on the highway, which was just seconds before the crash.
Video of the dashboard camera in trooper P.R. Mohre's car shows the officer switching lanes to avoid the on-coming car, then turning around to chase Lein's car.
The patrol continues to investigate where Lein got on the highway.
Lein's car struck a car carrying five Alpha Xi Delta members as they caravanned with other sorority sisters in separate cars to the Detroit airport for a trip to the Dominican Republic.
Killed in the crash were Sarah Hammond, 21, of Yellow Springs; Rebekah Blakkolb, 20, of Aurora; and Christina Goyett, 19, of Bay City, Mich.