CRASH AFTERMATH


By PETER H. MILLIKEN

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Campbell Tragedy

inline tease photo
Video

Three people are dead after a Saturday accident in Campbell, OH.

Photo

Photo

Three were killed Saturday when a car traveling between 80 and 90 mph on Blossom Avenue crashed into a house, top, at 525 Cynthia Drive, where Blossom dead-ends.

Photo

Three were killed Saturday when a car traveling between 80 and 90 mph on Blossom Avenue crashed into a house, top, at 525 Cynthia Drive, where Blossom dead-ends. This is a picture of the car after the accident.

There is little mystery surrounding deaths that occurred after a car crashed into a house at about 80 mph, Mahoning County’s coroner said.

“It was an automobile accident. I don’t think we were going to learn much from the scene besides what we got from the police investigation,” Dr. David M. Kennedy said at a Monday news conference called so that he could answer criticism about his office’s handling of the Saturday morning accident in Campbell that left three people dead and one injured.

Dr. Kennedy expressed sympathy for the families of the deceased, but he offered no apology for not coming in to the coroner’s office during the weekend.

“I am on call, and I handled it the best way I could,” he said.

Dr. Kennedy said he was notified shortly after three people died in a 5:03 a.m. Saturday accident that left a car deeply embedded into the Campbell house.

He said, however, he declined to go to the crash scene himself or dispatch Dr. Joseph Ohr, forensic pathologist and deputy coroner. Instead, he called a body-removal team to take the bodies, which firefighters had cut from the wreckage, to the morgue at Oakhill Renaissance Place.

The coroner ruled Monday the deaths were caused by a motor-vehicle accident.

On April 19, Dr. Kennedy announced he would no longer send investigators to death scenes because his 2010 budget had been cut by the county commissioners. Coroners’ investigations would begin the next business day, he said.

The move was aimed at eliminating overtime for night and weekend call-outs beyond investigators’ regular, 40-hour work week. Drs. Kennedy and Ohr are not eligible for overtime.

The coroner’s budget from the general fund was cut from $637,838 he spent last year to $600,000 this year. Coroner’s investigator Jesse Hoffman is being laid off Friday to save the office about $35,000 a year. After that, two investigators will remain.

To function properly, the office needs a budget of at least $775,000 a year, Dr. Kennedy said, adding he looks forward to meeting with the county commissioners later this week.

“I don’t want this office to continue to run like this,” he said of what he described as his underfunded office.

Today, the coroner’s office has a staff of seven, including Drs. Kennedy and Ohr, three investigators, a secretary and a financial officer.

As a part-time, elected coroner, Dr. Kennedy earns $63,255 annually and does not perform autopsies.

Dr. Kennedy said he’s not aware of any minimum number of hours he must put in as a part-time coroner, but he said he devotes an average of 15 to 20 hours a week to his coroner’s office functions.

Dr. Ohr earns $128,125, and the investigators make between $25,182 and $31,184, without overtime. The corner’s office handles about 350 cases a year, of which about 220 are autopsied.

During the news conference, after a reporter raised the issue, Dr. Kennedy said he’ll immediately take a 10-percent pay cut to help curb his office’s costs, but Dr. Ohr’s salary is set by contract.

Dr. Ohr performed all three autopsies Monday, and two of the three bodies were released to a funeral home late Monday, with the third possibly being held until today.

Detective Sgt. John Rusnak, the Campbell police accident investigator, said he spoke to Dr. Kennedy by phone late Saturday morning, and Dr. Kennedy said the coroner’s office would not be open during the weekend.

Rather, Dr. Kennedy told Rusnak to advise the families of the deceased to come to the coroner’s office at 8 a.m. Monday.

When he arrived at Oak-hill at 8 a.m. Monday, Rusnak said Dr. Ohr apologized for the delay of access to the coroner’s office but then produced all the information he needed by 8:40 a.m.

Dr. Kennedy said he believed the police had the identification information they needed during the weekend.

Under state law, the coroner’s job is to determine the cause and manner of death, he said.

Many coroner’s offices employees do not go to death scenes at all, he said.

Dr. Kennedy, who is in his 16th year as coroner, said he did not conduct office hours in his private internal-medicine practice or see hospitalized patients in connection with that practice over the weekend.

Although he didn’t go to any death scenes over the weekend, Dr. Kennedy said he responded during that time to about 30 telephone calls from emergency dispatchers concerning 10 potential or actual coroner’s cases, including that of someone shot last week,who died over the weekend.

SEE ALSO: Nightmare prolonged for families

Subscribe Today

Sign up for our email newsletter to receive daily news.

Want more? Click here to subscribe to either the Print or Digital Editions.