The time period of Sept. 18 to 22 stands out for Brookfield safety forces, and not in a good way.
“We’ve had weeks when we’ve had a lot of crashes, but as far as four serious crashes in one week, I don’t remember a week that we’ve had fatalities and serious crashes like that,” said Police Chief Dan Faustino.
It was a sentiment shared by Fire Lt. Nick Cresanto.
In the wake of the crashes, local officials are talking about what they can do to try to make the roads safer, and reaching out to county and state officials.
The crashes occurred in different places and under different circumstances, but they highlight issues that continue to crop up, particularly the crossovers on the state highways and illegal use of all-terrain vehicles on roads.
The first crash occurred Sept. 18 on Route 7, where a utility truck driven by Thomas Stefek Jr., 48, of Poland crashed into a utility pole, killing Stefek. Ohio Highway Patrol said Stefek might have had a medical issue that caused him to lose control of the truck, but the Trumbull County Coroner’s Office said it likely will be several weeks before an autopsy report comes back.
Two days later, Blaine Tinelli, 80, of Hubbard, died at a local hospital after the minivan he was in hit a garbage truck at Route 62 and Bedford Road. Ohio Highway patrol said the driver of the truck, Steven W. Styranec, 48, of Struthers, was at fault, but he has not been charged.
On Sept. 21, four vehicles were involved in a crash at Route 82 and Addison Road. While one person was taken to a hospital, Ohio Highway Patrol described the injuries as minor and has not released a report.
Finally, on Sept. 22, Charles Costea, 63, of Masury, was critically injured when his motorcycle hit an ATV head-on on the cloverleaf linking Routes 82 and 62. The ATV driver left the scene.
Immediately after the Sept. 20 crash, two Bedford residents called for the installation of a traffic light at the Route 62/Bedford Road intersection.
“They’re not paying attention to this corner,” a resident said of officials. “We’ve seen dead bodies here. It’s ridiculous.”
Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Justin Chesnic said officials look at factors such as traffic volume, crash data and intersection layout in determining if a signal is warranted.
“Currently, this intersection is not on ODOT’s highway safety list, which shows our most dangerous intersections around the state,” he said.
On Sept. 26, Chesnic said ODOT will conduct a safety study for the Route 62 intersections with Bedford Road and Broadway Avenue.
“This study is a result of some inquiries we received from the Brookfield Township Trustees and Trumbull County Engineer’s Office,” he said. “The safety study will look at improving safety along this corridor. We are currently requesting the funding from central office. I do not have a timeline on an exact start date or completion date.”
Trustees on Sept. 24 talked about the crashes and any number of possible improvements, from lowering speed limits and adding traffic lights or signs to cutting off the crossover connections with highways. Because the crashes occurred on state roads, officials said they would have to talk to ODOT officials – and expressed a willingness to do that – and also want to include county officials.
Trustee Ron Haun asked Faustino to compile crash data for the problem intersections prior to a meeting with county and state officials.
“It has to help if we have statistics,” he said. “If we have statistics, we’ll have a stronger case to present to ODOT.”
ODOT has not been deaf to local complaints. Faustino said the state changed the timing of the traffic lights at Route 7 and Warren Sharon Road to allow motorists trying to turn more time to do that, and township Road Superintendent Jaime Fredenburg noted ODOT recently paid to have rumble strips installed on the sides of Route 7, south of Route 82, where several tractor-trailers have inexplicably veered off a straight stretch of road.
Faustino said he would sit down with his staff to talk about what police can do about the ATVs. He said a small percentage of ATV drivers follow the rules of the road.
“Main problems is they’re out there, they’re speeding, they’re reckless, riding wheelies, not paying attention to anything,” Faustino said.
Haun said some of the problems highlighted by the week of bad crashes have been known for years.
“My point of it is it’s sad when people have to die before any action is taken,” he said.