10/13/2006

Ohio patrol car speeding before fatal crash

Randy Ludlow
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
Copyright 2006 The Columbus Dispatch

Oct. 6- A State Highway Patrol car was speeding last week when it spun out of control and into the path of a pickup truck, killing the motorist and two troopers in Gallia County.

However, investigators still have no answers to major questions about the collision that killed Trooper Joshua P. Risner, Sgt. Dale R. Holcomb and Vinton resident Lori Smith.

It has not been determined why the patrol car's lights and siren were activated on Sept. 28. The troopers had not been dispatched to a call and had not radioed in a run.

Nor is it known what caused Risner to lose control of his eastbound cruiser and spin around backward into the westbound lane where it was hit by Smith's truck.

The patrol car was traveling above the limit of 55 mph when it spun out of control on Jackson Pike at 5:50 a.m. on a rainy day, Lt. Tony Bradshaw said yesterday.

Investigators also think that the fire that consumed both vehicles apparently spread from the split gas tank of the patrol car, which was heavily damaged, Bradshaw said.

Authorities are waiting for autopsy results to determine whether the victims were killed by the impact of the collision or the fire, he said. No one witnessed the crash.

A task force of crash-reconstruction and engineering experts continues to piece together the accident and hopes to produce more answers next week, Bradshaw said.

The "black boxes" from both vehicles are being reviewed to determine whether the computerized data can yield any clues, he said.

Holcomb, 45, was a 21-year officer with the State Highway Patrol. Risner, 29, was a sevenyear veteran. Both were assigned to the Gallipolis post. The incident was the first in Patrol history in which more than one trooper was killed.

Smith, 32, operated Helping Hands, a home-cleaning business.

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