Man charged with vehicular manslaughter

Cary Ashby • Mar 7, 2014 at 8:56 PM

An area motorist faces a vehicle manslaughter charge in connection with a fatal Dec. 26 two-car crash.

If convicted, Jordan R. Zartman, 20, of Tiffin, faces up to 90 days in the Huron County Jail on the second-degree misdemeanor. He also could be fined $750 and have his driver's license suspended.

Related to the same crash, Wakeman Police Officer David W. Hardy Jr. was fined for slamming into Zartman's car when he responded to the accident.

Hardy, 25, was found guilty in mid-January of failure to maintain assured clear distance. Norwalk Municipal Court records indicate the officer was fined $30 and ordered to pay $65 in court costs.

A prosecutor originally declined to file any charges against Hardy.

"My original recommendation was not file charges," Norwalk Law Director Stuart O'Hara said.

However, he said he later learned the Norwalk post of the state Highway Patrol must have cited Hardy and/or he pleaded guilty. Troopers handled the investigation of the fatal crash.

O'Hara said section 4511.041 of the Ohio Revised Code says drivers of emergency vehicles, such as police cruisers, when responding to an emergency with its lights and sirens activated, are exempt from being cited.

"That's the traffic code, for the most part," O'Hara added.

Examples of those exemptions are failure to control, speeding and going left of center. O'Hara said drivers of emergency vehicles aren't exempt from being charged with driving under the influence.

"One of those (exemptions) is failure to control, which is what someone in that circumstance probably could be charged with. Section 4511.041 doesn't exempt (Hardy) from civil liability," O'Hara said.

Police Chief Tim Hunker couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

The fatal crash happened at 12:30 a.m. Dec. 26 on U.S. 20 in Wakeman Township. Hardy responded to the crash to assist troopers.

At 12:36 a.m., Hardy was westbound on U.S. 20 when he lost control on the black ice. The officer wasn't able to stop and hit the right rear of Zartman's disabled 2006 Chevrolet Malibu, which was in the road, troopers said.

The cruiser, a 2012 Chevy Impala, and Zartman's car each sustained minor damage.

Hardy and Zartman weren't injured, but troopers said Zartman's passenger, Breanna L. Zartman, 24, of Tiffin, had possible injuries. North Central EMS transported her to Fisher-Titus Medical Center, where she was treated and released.

Jordan Zartman's car was disabled from the fatal crash that happened moments earlier.

Caitlin Yager, 19, of Canfield, which is southwest of Youngstown, was the right-rear passenger of a 2003 Chrysler Concorde. Troopers said she wasn't wearing a seatbelt and died from her unspecified injuries.

Zartman was westbound on U.S. 20 when he lost control on the ice-covered roadway. He crossed the center line and collided head-on with the eastbound Concorde being driven by Richard Yager, 57, troopers said. Both vehicles stopped in the road.

Yager's front-seat passenger was Carol Yager, also 57, and the left-rear passenger was Matthew Yager, 23. Matthew was treated for incapacitating injuries at Fisher-Titus and released. Richard and Carol also had incapacitating injuries and were transported to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where they originally were in stable condition.

Prosecutors filed the vehicle manslaughter charge against Zartman on Feb. 14. He was issued a summons four days later for his March 17 arraignment.

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