By ED RUNYAN
The accident report for a March 31 crash on state Route 5 in Warren Township that killed three Trumbull County Marine Corps recruits says one reason it occurred is that truck driver Donald Williams Jr. of Austintown failed to stay a proper distance back from the recruiter’s vehicle.
The 33-page Ohio State Highway Patrol report released Monday does not include statements from any of the witnesses to the accident, but it does contain a checked box indicating that following too closely and/or failing to maintain a proper distance were “contributing circumstances.”
It says there was no odor of alcoholic beverages coming from Williams or his vehicle, but investigators list drug use as “unknown” because of “the grogginess of the driver and the limited contact with him because of his injuries,” the report said.
Investigators talked to Williams, 44, of Bainbridge Avenue in Austintown, a second time at St. Joseph Health Center in Warren, where he “again appeared to be disoriented.”
After being read his rights and told that all drivers were being asked to consent to a blood test, Williams consented to having blood drawn for the test but “did not want to give a witness statement for the crash,” the report said.
Williams did answer a couple of written questions, but refused to sign the statement form on which the answers were given, the highway patrol said.
“It is unknown what, if any, drugs [Williams] was given at the hospital,” the trooper reported. “Alcohol/drug use, if any, will be determined by the toxicology results,” the report said.
The report does not say what investigators think led to the crash.
Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County prosecutor, said his office is working closely with the highway patrol and will eventually ask a Trumbull County grand jury — probably within the next four weeks — to determine what charges, if any, will be filed in the case.
The crash killed Zachary A. Nolen, 19, of Mineral Ridge and Newton Falls, Joshua A. Sherbourne, 21, of Southington and Michael T. Theodore Jr., 19, of Howland.
All three were in the back seat of a Pontiac G6 driven by Marine Sgt. Charles W. Kenne, 25, of Youngstown that was on its way to Cleveland so that the three and a fourth recruit could complete their enlistment in the Marines.
Williams, Kenne and recruit Carl W. McDermott III, 19, of Masury, who was in the front seat, were injured but released from the hospital. Occupants of the six other vehicles received lesser injuries.
A dash camera inside the International semi tractor Williams was driving shows the crash, the report says, but the report mentions only one thing about the video: It shows the lit brake lights on the recruiter’s vehicle just before the crash.
A spokesman for the patrol in Columbus said the video will be made public as soon as troopers complete a traffic reconstruction, which gives a more-detailed description of what investigators believe happened during the crash.
The report says four westbound cars were stopped at the traffic light at Burnett Road, including the recruiter’s car, when the collision occurred.