“She meant a lot to everyone here,” Bleile said quietly Monday. “She was just a wonderful person.”
The 24-year-old Greenwich woman was killed in an accident Friday on U.S. 33 in in Union County’s Jerome Township. Howell was pronounced dead at the scene. The tractor-trailer that reportedly hit Howell is a 2004 Kenworth truck that was hauling a 2014 Great Dane trailer.
Howell was in her third year of employment at Lake Erie Construction.
“She was a member of Laborers Local 894 in Akron. Teresa quickly became part of the family here at Lake Erie Construction. Her energy and work ethic were admired by everyone she met. This devastating loss is made even more profound by those who knew her because of her invincible spirit and infectious attitude, which allowed her to be both a loving mother and a construction laborer determined to never be outworked by anyone she worked with,” Bleile said.
Estep Express Inc. in Mansfield owns the tractor and trailer that reportedly hit Howell. Owner and president Earl Estep couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
“Teresa was a 24-year-old, mother of two (who) loved her children, her family, friends, the people she worked with and the work she performed. Teresa was a 2012 graduate of Canton GlenOak High School and moved to Greenwich with her grandmother and family four years ago,” Bleile said.
“Our hearts go out to her children, Leland and Chevy; her grandparents, Paula and Doug; her father Darrell and mother Jenny, her entire family, friends and co-workers who have been so deeply affected by the passion and smile that Teresa lived with.”
Howell was working with crew members to perform a guardrail repair on on U.S. 33 eastbound Friday. Bleile said the work was part of an Ohio Department of Transportation maintenance contract.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office received an emergency call concerning the accident about 8:59 a.m. Deputies, along with Jerome and Washington township firefighters, responded to the scene on U.S. 33, west of Ohio 161. The coroner’s office also was called.
The preliminary investigation has revealed the driver of the tractor-trailer drove over several orange safety cones that had been placed in the righthand lane of U.S. 33. The cones were there to protect Lake Erie Construction workers while they performed maintenance on the guardrails.
“It was closed off,” Bleile said.
The male driver has been identified, but Chief Deputy Tom Morgan said the sheriff’s office isn’t releasing his name since he hasn’t been charged.
The semi kept going after Howell was hit, investigators said, but it was unclear if the person fled or didn't realize the woman was hit, according to ABC 6. Authorities later were able to find the driver for questioning.
About 90 minutes after the crash, the tractor and trailer were found in a warehouse area at 1580 Williams Road in Columbus, nearly 27 miles from the crash site. Morgan said the semi was hauling perishable food items, specifically baby food or baby formula.
“That was where he was heading to deliver his load,” the chief deputy added.
U.S. 33 eastbound was closed between U.S. 42 and Ohio 161. One lane opened by 12:15 p.m. Friday. All lanes were open by 1:30.
“As soon as soon as we are finished investigation, it will go to the (Union County) prosecutor’s office and go to a future grand jury,” Morgan said Monday. “It’s a very complicated criminal investigation. There was a lot of evidence collected; all that has to be processed. (We are) trying to be thorough and do a good job with the investigation.”
The sheriff’s office, the Multi-County Crash Investigation Team, coroner’s office and motor carrier enforcement unit of the state Highway Patrol all are investigating the fatal crash.
“In Teresa’s memory, we ask that every driver commit to slowing down in construction work zones and follow Ohio law by moving over when a lane is available. Construction and safety personnel deserve the respect of all drivers for the important work they do to keep our travel safe,” Bleile said.