Lordstown teacher recovering after biking accident
LORDSTOWN — When Jenna Barvitski left her Newton Falls home Sept. 11 for her 3.8-mile bike ride to work, the last thing she expected was to be struck at 7 a.m. by a minivan on Salt Springs Road.
Barvitski, 33, a music teacher at Lordstown High School and elementary school, spent three weeks in St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital recovering from head injuries sustained in the accident. She is now undergoing occupational and physical therapy.
Barvitski is home recovering but will only talk about the mishap through her lawyer, Martin F. White.
According to White, Barvitski remembers nothing about the accident, but holds no ill will toward the driver of the minivan, Julie Burchart.
Burchart, who was driving home to Newton Falls from work, told Lordstown police officer Kenneth Metz, who responded to the scene, that she “might” have fallen asleep, the police report states. Warren Township Fire Department and emergency medical services also arrived at the site.
That night, Burchart worked midnight turn and finished at 5:30 a.m. She began driving her work van from Sheffield Township, Lorain County, to Newton Falls. According to a Lordstown police report, she said: “I was tired driving home. So I stopped at a FriendShip gas station to get pizza and a pop to wake up.”
Lordstown police Chief Brent Milhoan said there “is no charge that I’m aware of for falling asleep at the wheel.”
When lab results return from the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Milhoan doesn’t anticipate any issues from the urine or cellphone analysis. “If everything comes back clean, Burchart will be charged with assured clear distance, a misdemeanor,” he said.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, assured clear distance requires “that you drive your vehicle in such a way as to be able to bring you car to a stop to avoid an accident. As a driver, you are required to take into consideration night driving, weather conditions, hills, curves, turns and poor lighting.”
Burchart stated that she saw Barvitski on her bicycle “off in the distance.” As she continued driving, she said that she heard a “thump,” but thought she was already around Barvitski.
White pointed out that Barvitski was wearing a reflective vest and a helmet, and her bike had a light in the front and a reflective red light in the rear. White said she “feels lucky to be alive.”
Others who had gathered at the scene said they saw her face down near the bike. One man stated the bicycle was between her legs, but he pulled it out from her and laid it next to her.
Even though she is getting better, White said, she has no anticipated return to work date. White said she misses her students, and they miss her.
“We look forward to her return. We had a walk for Miss B. a couple of weeks ago. And students and staff have sent cards and letters to her a number of times,” schools Superintendent Terry Armstrong said.
Barvitski acknowledges that the Lordstown school system’s support has helped her in her quest to get better.
“Jenna wants to thank everyone in the Lordstown school system for their wonderful support,” White said. “She is overwhelmed by the love she’s received from people all over.”