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'It's a tragedy' - Grandfather killed in crash had been citizen of year, Santa Claus

Cary Ashby • Feb 4, 2013 at 11:08 PM

A grandfather and grandmother were killed in a two-vehicle crash in which their 15-year-old granddaughter was one of the drivers.

North Fairfield residents Rodney Williams, 69, and his wife Betty, 66, were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash that happened at 2:18 p.m. Saturday on West Ohio 162, just west of Townline Road 79 in Fitchville Township, said troopers with the state Highway Patrol's Norwalk post.

"It's a tragedy," said former North Fairfield Mayor Cheryll Pfanner, who knew the couple as acquaintances for about 40 years. "When I heard about it, I was in shock."

Williams was the front-seat passenger while his wife was sitting in the rear of the 2000 Dodge Dakota pickup truck driven by their granddaughter, Karlie Conaway, 15, of Greenwich.

Conaway was westbound on Ohio 162 before the collision with the eastbound 1998 Ford Ranger pickup truck driven by Troy Green, 40, of New London. Troopers said Conaway lost control, went left of center and was hit in the eastbound lane of Ohio 162 by Green's truck.

Conaway "hit some slush and pulled her off (the road)," said Richard Conaway, the girl's paternal uncle. Their intended destination is unknown.

The trucks went off the south side of Ohio 162 and stopped there. Troopers said all the occupants in the truck driven by Conaway were trapped and were extricated by the New London Volunteer Fire Department.

Troopers said Conaway and her grandfather were wearing their seatbelts, but Betty Williams wasn't "belted in."

Both drivers were transported to Fisher-Titus Medical Center with serious injuries. Green later was transferred to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo. A hospital spokeswoman said he was in critical condition in the medical intensive care unit as of Sunday afternoon.

No condition was available about Conaway at press time. Her uncle said she has a learner's permit. It's unknown how long she's had it.

"He (Williams) played Santa Claus until his grandchildren figured out it was him, so they had to find a new one. So he had to become an elf -- one of Santa's helpers," said Pfanner, who laughed at the memory.

Williams, a former truck driver, received the North Fairfield Distinguished Citizen Award years ago.

"That's how much he was thought of in the town," said Jack Pfanner. "They were the kind of people you want in your town."

Pfanner recalled the couple was part of an "outgoing family," with Williams being particularly involved in the community.

"Rod was kinda the action one and Betty was the quiet one. Rod was never afraid to speak his mind ... but it was in a positive way," Pfanner said.

Williams also was involved with the North Fairfield Lions Club for 40 years and supported Little League. His oldest daughter, Amy, is on North Fairfield village council.

"Rod was always involved in a lot of things. ... He was involved in Little League since the early 1970s," Pfanner said. "I didn't have the privilege of coaching the daughters, but they played on a team in a different league.

"They (Rod and Betty) were good Little League parents. They were there all the time. They were always supporting their kids' activities and later on, their grandkids activities," Pfanner said.

The Williams and Conaway families are doing "as good as can expected," Richard Conaway said.

Troopers said there's no indication of alcohol or drug involvement. No charges have been filed, and the crash remains under investigation.

Assisting troopers at the scene were New London firefighters and EMS, the New London Police Department, Ohio Department of Transportation, Jensen's Towing and A&M Towing.

Funeral arrangements will be announced by Eastman Funeral Home in New London.

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