Chief: Wakeman cop who responded to fatal crash was driving on 'sheet of ice'

Teen died from injuries in traffic accident.
Cary Ashby
Mar 7, 2014

 

The Wakeman police officer who slammed into a vehicle involved in a fatal crash was driving on "a sheet of ice" and had his judgment thrown off by a truck's bright lights, his boss said.

Wakeman Police Officer David W. Hardy Jr., 25, was found guilty in mid-January of failure to maintain assured clear distance. He was fined $30 and ordered to pay $65 in court costs.

Hardy hit the vehicle driven by Jordan R. Zartman, 20, of Tiffin, who is charged with vehicular manslaughter in connection with a separate, fatal Dec. 26 two-car crash. If convicted of the second-degree misdemeanor, Zartman faces up to 90 days in the Huron County Jail, a $750 fine and a driver's license suspension.

"There were two separate crashes we handled," said Lt. Douglas Hamman, Norwalk post commander of the state Highway Patrol.

"I understand this brings up questions," Hamman said, but he added they should be answered during the court proceedings.

Caitlin Yager, 19, of Canfield, was the right-rear passenger of a 2003 Chrysler Concorde who died from unspecified injuries.

"The prosecution is pending on that," said Hamman, who declined further comment.

Wakeman Police Chief Tim Hunker used footage from the officer's dashcam to guide the Reflector through what happened with Hardy.

"He got a call and hangs up the phone and says he's going to respond," Hunker said. "It's a sheet of ice all around the (U.S. 20) curve ... making it difficult to travel."

There was a pickup truck west of the fatal crash site. According to Hunker and the dashcam footage, the truck had its bright lights "shining into the accident scene" and directly into Hardy. The chief said he believes someone was attempting to illuminate the crash site.

"It threw Hardy's judgment off about where the accident was," Hunker said. "The crash had blocked the roadway."

Hardy is heard on the dashcam footage yelling "stop" multiple times as his cruiser slides on the road and hits Zartman's car.

"He was on ice the whole time. He lost control," Hunker said.

By the time the officer slowed down and adjusted to where the crash site was, his cruiser started to slide on the ice, the chief said.

"No matter how fast you were going, you were going to slide. He hit the right rear quarter panel of the vehicle," Hunker said, referring to Zartman's car.

The chief said Hardy hit Zartman's vehicle -- not the one where the victim was a passenger.

"In any normal conditions, he would have been able to stop," Hunker added. "He slid a pretty good distance."

After the crash, Hardy pulled his cruiser off the road and assisted troopers and firefighters.

The Wakeman cruiser sustained $3,500 worth of damage. Hunker said the department also had three scratches which weren't related to the Dec. 26 crash fixed for a total of $3,646.

"It's back; it's been operable since the beginning of January," Hunker said.

According to the patrol, Hunker said the fatality "was due to the other vehicle."

"It's a horrible situation all the way around with someone losing their life," the chief added.

Comments

WATCHED_1s

So why is the boy getting vehicular manslaughter? Could the same sheet of ice caused him to lose control since we are blaming the ice for the cop? An accident is just that...AN ACCIDENT. I'm not saying this girls death isn't hurtful but don't you think the boy who was driving is punished enough buy living with it? He should get the same charges the cop got. I don't know any of the parties involved. I just think this makes our court systems look even more corrupt.

Foodforthought

Very good point but what are the facts of the accident. Was this person speeding, failure to yield, following to close, run a stop sign or red light, texting, talking on phone? If it is just an accident then yes. If he was doing something he shouldn't have been then you have to look at it further. As for the Wakemen cop, normally I would say yes accidents happen and this should have been avoided oops oh well. But since Wakemen cops are so known for writing tickets after tickets and harassing drivers, he should be punished more for this. If that was us, we would have been hammered.

shovelhead

"It not his fault. He couln't see. He had mysterious depth/light perception. It was icey. It doesn't matter how fast you travel." All of these statements make the chief look stupid.

"It wouldn't matter how fast he was going!" -said nobody ever. (until now)!

ant1

Why was he not charged with failure to control? Anyone else who slides on ice and crashes into anything or just slides into a ditch is charged with failure to control???

rbenn

My thoughts exactly, In the state of ohio if you have a heart attack and crash you will be cited. They will get your money no matter what.

asphaltcowboy86

He vision was impaired to bright lights. You the same way other motorist vision are impaired when you pull someone over at night? What would happen if I hit them ? I'd get a bigger fine than $30.00.

Now The Rest of...

According to the Norwalk Municipal Court website search, the officer paid a waiver, the same wavier amount anyone else would pay if they choose not to go to court. You are charged with assured clear distance when you strike another vehicle in the rear that is stopped or slowed, failure to control is used for other incidents. Both charges are similar and the same penalties. He choose to pay the waiver and didn't receive any special treatment.

earlduck

OK its just another case of rent-a-cop probably,I can't imagine a professional rushing to an accident where the state patrol is already investigating and making the firemen scatter like chickens.
if this young cop gets by with this he'll expect bigger things in the future,on the other hand one judgement failure shouldn't ruin his career,I was young once and if i had been hung for all my stupid mistakes I would have a long neck

JACKEL

Right rear has always been considered the death seat!

earlduck

one night my family was returning from cleveland airport having picked up my adult son and my 20 yr old driving we were stopped in Wakeman,the cop questioned each person in the car as to who they were,four of us,senior citizen me,my wife and 2 adult kids.
he shined bright lights on us and was very suspicious,walking around the car
he was not courteous like state patrolmen are, just creepy.
the reason he stopped us was license plate light was out

rbenn

That is wakemans stop all excuse, even if its working they will say it wasn't.

samsmith

Why was wakeman officer out of wakeman?
Did the state highway patrol need wakemans assistance ?
So to set the scene :
Fatal accident out of wakeman
State highway patrol is in scene ! Fire and rescue on scene ! Then a young wakeman police officer who works two days a month who has had no training but basic academy come driving up with lights (I'm guessing) And slams into the back of accident !
State highway patrol handles all fatals !
So wakeman officer put all the fireman in scene in danger and also the state highway patrol! Why is hunker condoning this officers behavior ?? This was out of city limits ! Wasn't asked to assist !
This is exactly why wakeman is a joke!

earlduck

actually Wakeman is not a joke,the people I know are afraid of those cops bacause they are afraid they will try to pin something on them.
they watch every car that passes through that crummy town

Now The Rest of...

I am not defending this officer or his department. I don't know any of the officers, they don't know me, I have driven through Wakeman on a regular basis, never been stopped or watched.

samsmith

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k...

This is what is the bottom of video from state highway patrol!
Authorities on Monday provided more information on a fatal crash, in which a Wakeman police cruiser then crashes into the wreckage minutes later.

While one person died, most likely as a result of the initial accident, the police officer apparently has professional immunity while on official duties. A prosecutor declined to file any charges against
Hardy surround a death from the accident scene.

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

More details under the video for those who are interested ....

Wakeman Police Dept footage

The Police Footage

Video footage from the Wakeman police cruiser's dash cam (released Monday) shows the cruiser sliding on the icy roadway into at least one of two cars involved in the initial crash. Officer Hardy's cruiser slammed into the wreckage about six minutes after the initial two-car crash.

Almost all of the victims of the existing crash were still in the vehicles when the officer's cruiser crashed into at least one of the cars. An occupant in that vehicle later told investigators the impact from the police cruiser knocked her out of the car.

Caitlin Yager, 19, a passenger in one of the cars involved in the initial accident, died (apparently) on the scene from her injuries.

The coroner has claimed he is unable to determine a time of death.

Details of the Initial Accident

The fatal crash between two vehicles occurred at about 12:30 a.m. Dec. 26, when Jordan Zartman, 20, of Tiffin, was driving a 2006 Chevy Malibu west on U.S. 20. His vehicle slid on the ice-covered road and crossed the center line, striking an oncoming Chrysler Concorde head-on, according to the Highway Patrol's release.

In the Chrysler was a family from Canfield: The driver, Richard Yager, 53; front-seat passenger Carol Yager, 57; left-rear passenger Matthew Yager, 23; and right-rear passenger Caitlin Yager, 19. Caitlin died from her injuries.

While the police officer was involved in a subsequent accident striking the car in which Daitlan Yager died, he has not been charged.

Who Got Charged ?

Police have since charged Jordan Zartman with vehicular manslaughter, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail.

However, none of the investigators could specify the exact time of Caitlin's death. Huron County coroner Jeff Harwood on Monday said he doesn't think the Wakeman cruiser caused Caitlin's death.

"I think she was dead or dying (before the cruiser arrived at the scene)" Harwood said. "Those events were already set in motion

The Wakeman officer was not cited or charged because (according to police and the prosecutor) he has professional immunity. The officer's lights and sirens were activated and he was responding to an emergency scene.

samsmith

This is a lot different story than chief hunker tells isn't it? He hit the car hard enough to knock victim out of car but didn't cause more harm to victim that died? And was stated victim "was dead or dying".when wakeman hit car! Well there is a big diffrence between dead and dying! Dying people live with medical attention !!!

Truth2u

Its easy to just think of this as an accident and set aside the human portion. Every day I pray that my children will be safe and spared from such tragedies.

http://www.thenewscenter.tv/home...

wrparent

Part of the blame lies with the firefighter who drove his personal vehicle to the scene and turned on his bright headlights. Anyone coming up on that crash would have had trouble seeing it. He would have been better off using his hazards. Hindsight is 20/20. The officer was right in just paying the waiver.

mcgoff01

Had trouble seeing bright headlights??