By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
Less than five full months into the year, more people have died in Hancock County accidents than during all of 2018.
In total, 14 people — eight drivers, five passengers and one pedestrian — have been killed so far this year in Hancock County, compared to 11 deaths in all of 2018.
No other Ohio county is running as far ahead of its year-to-date fatality total as Hancock County, according to the State Highway Patrol.
Including two men who died in an accident Thursday morning in Delaware Township, Hancock County has had 11 more fatalities than it did at this point in 2018. The next-closest county is Trumbull County, with seven more deaths than at this time last year.
Most surrounding counties have had fewer deaths to date, or the same number. Hardin County has had four fewer deaths, Allen and Henry counties three fewer, and Wood County one fewer. Putnam and Wyandot counties are steady with last year.
Seneca County has had one more fatality than it had by mid-May 2018.
Six of Hancock County’s nine fatal accidents to date involved two vehicles, ranging from motorcycles to semi-trucks. Two other crashes were single-vehicle accidents in which the driver died, and one involved a vehicle and a pedestrian who was killed.
The accidents include three double-fatals and one triple-fatal. “That’s just unheard of,” Hancock County Sheriff Mike Heldman said Thursday.
There isn’t one trend behind the accidents, or one bad intersection or part of the county, he said.
“That’s kind of the strange part of it,” Heldman said.
Failure to yield and inattention have caused some crashes, but there have been “all kinds of different accidents,” he said.
And that means there isn’t one clear enforcement strategy that could improve the situation.
In general, drivers should be paying more attention, especially on rural roads as farmers start planting their crops, Heldman said.
“People need to be careful, with as wide and big as the (farm) machinery is nowadays,” he said.
In March, the State Highway Patrol cited “unsafe speed, driving left of center and failure to yield” as factors in Hancock County’s fatal crashes. At the time, nine people had died in six Hancock County accidents.
“Traffic crashes involving distracted driving are also continuing to increase,” the patrol said, and lack of seat belt use was another problem cited.
Most of the deceased were driving or riding in a passenger vehicle. Two motorcyclists died as a result of the same accident — an Arlington woman at the scene of a crash near Bluffton, and her husband a few days later.
The pedestrian was killed in March when he was struck by a car while crossing Ohio 568 near Hancock County 236 before sunrise.
The fatal accidents happened on Ohio 613, west of Pleasant Township 117; on Ohio 12, east of Hancock County 140; on Interstate 75, south of the Ohio 103 exit; at the intersection of U.S. 224 and Marion Township 215; on Ohio 186, north of U.S. 224; on Ohio 568, east of Hancock County 236; on Hancock County 212, west of Hancock County 236; on Ohio 103 at the Interstate 75 exit; and at the intersection of Hancock County 157 and Hancock County 156.
2 killed in Thursday crash
MOUNT BLANCHARD — Two men were killed and one was injured in a two-vehicle accident around 7:21 a.m. Thursday in Delaware Township.
Nathan Arnold, 42, of Mount Blanchard, was driving north on Hancock County 157 in a 2001 Honda Civic when he failed to stop at the stop sign at Hancock County 156, according to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
The passenger side of Arnold’s vehicle was struck by a 2014 Honda Pilot driven by Rick Renz, 48, of Fostoria, the sheriff’s office reported.
Renz, a Riverdale assistant principal, was westbound on Hancock County 156.
Both vehicles came to rest in a grass lot northwest of the intersection.
Arnold and his passenger, Brandon Stevens, 29, of Forest, were pronounced dead at the scene. They were not wearing seat belts, the sheriff’s office said.
Renz was wearing a seat belt and was taken to Blanchard Valley Hospital by a relative, according to the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s office was assisted by the Delaware Township Fire Department, Hanco EMS, Dick’s Towing and Mac and Bob’s Towing.