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.