Deadly Cleveland crash reminder to move over for emergency crews

CANFIELD, Ohio (WYTV) – As cars zip past emergency workers on the side of the road, crews hope drivers are paying attention.

On Tuesday, a car hit and killed a Cleveland police officer on Interstate 90 and then drove away.

Canfield Captain Troy Kolar experienced a close call two years ago when a semi plowed into his crew’s firetruck. He was one of the firefighters responding to a fatal crash on the Ohio Turnpike in November of 2014.

“As we were stopping on the scene, we heard tires squeal and we were impacted by a truck hauling cars,” Kolar said.

Although the crew escaped injury, their truck was totaled.

He called Tuesday morning’s deadly crash involving a Cleveland patrolman disheartening.

“You think about how young he was, the career he had ahead of him. I mean, this is somebody who wants to help people and he’s not about to do that now, and it breaks your heart.”

Kolar said emergency workers do all they can to protect themselves on the road.

“The lights on the trucks now are more bright than they’ve ever been before,” he said. “It’s mandatory now that trucks come from the factory with chevrons on them…We’re doing everything we can to make our trucks more visible.”

In Ohio, pulling over and slowing down for emergency vehicles has been the law since 2004. Still, there have been a half-dozen crashes involving state troopers in Mahoning and Trumbull counties in the last six years.

Included in that total are crashes in Jackson Township this past July and one in Howland from September.

“People just continue to be distracted when they’re going down the roadway, not paying attention to the lights,” said Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Jerad Sutton.

In 2013, the law expanded to cover highway and utility workers, as well as tow truck drivers.

“The fines are doubled for this violation so you can be facing between $300 and $1,000,” Sutton said.

Since his own accident, Kolar and his wife created “First Responders First” — a charitable corporation that offers training to emergency workers and helps raise money to buy safety equipment for local departments.

Still, Kolar said it all comes down to paying attention in order to save lives.

“You have to look, you have to slow down. Give us room.”