Driver dies after high-speed crash into landmark Youngstown church

By Peter H. Milliken


A speeding car being chased by police struck a retaining wall, went airborne for 105 feet and crashed into a Wick Avenue landmark church early Sunday, killing its young female driver.

A police report put the speed of the reportedly stolen car at more than 50 mph, but Rye Dalton, treasurer of First Presbyterian Church, 201 Wick Ave., which the car hit, said police at the scene estimated the speed of the car at 80 to 100 mph.

The Mahoning County Coroner’s Office identified the driver, who was extricated from the wreckage by the fire department, as Satavia Douglass, 19, of Southern Boulevard, but no official cause of death or ruling was available Sunday evening. Dr. Joseph Ohr, forensic pathologist and deputy coroner, was to perform the autopsy today.

Police responded shortly after midnight Saturday to a reported break-in and car theft at Jordan’s Auto Sales, a used car dealership at 839 Wick Ave.

Police saw the black, four-door 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer leave the used car lot, jump a curb, and speed southbound on Wick Avenue, without its headlights or taillights shining, according to Patrolman Arthur Carter, who wrote the police report.

With city police in pursuit, the driver, estimated by police to be between 18 and 20 years old, lost control near Lincoln Avenue and swerved several times before crashing into the church two blocks south, directly beneath its clock and steeple.

The car was embedded into the north side of the tower, and the impact broke a south-facing tower window. National Fire Repair boarded up the north window area, where the impact occurred, and the south window early Sunday morning.

Dalton said the damage is clearly more than $50,000, and he said Murphy Contracting Co. of Youngstown would survey the damage today.

“It’s going to be big because there’s a lot of interior damage,” Dalton said. Damaged inside were woodwork and drywall, wiring and heating equipment, he said. The church is insured for the damage, he added.

The Rev. Nick Mager, church pastor, said he wanted to have the clock tower and steeple, which overlook the city’s downtown, checked for structural damage the crash may have caused.

The Rev. Mr. Mager reported the crash to parishioners during the 11 a.m. Sunday worship service.

After the service, Mr. Mager said his church intends to contact the victim’s family and offer its sympathy and any assistance it can provide to that family in the aftermath of this tragedy.

“We continue to keep them in our thoughts and in our prayers. We’re in pain for them and pain with them,” he said of members of the victim’s family.

When police returned to the car dealership, they found a garage door open, and it appeared that the stolen car’s keys had been taken from inside the business before the car was stolen from the lot, the police report said.

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