Police say identifying victims of triple fatal crash proving difficult

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Investigators with Youngstown Police and the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office are working with authorities in Tennessee to see if they can positively identify two of the victims from a deadly crash Tuesday afternoon.

Three people died and another man was hurt when a Jeep SUV crashed with a green Honda on Route 62 (Hubbard Road) in Youngstown near the Trumbull County line.

With debris and chalk lines at the crash scene Wednesday, investigators said identifying those victims will be difficult, but they’re beginning to piece together what happened.

“We have spoken to the surviving passenger. He has given us a statement,” said Youngstown Police Lt. Bill Ross.

Police believe the Jeep was traveling northbound at high speed when the driver suddenly swerved to avoid another car in its lane. It then crashed with the Honda and rolled over.

Although there are no visible skid marks, a gouge in the asphalt shows where the crash occurred.

Police are still withholding the names of those involved but Elizabeth Barthany, of Hubbard, said yesterday she knew the two people in one of the vehicles — her white Jeep.

“I knew, I had a gut feeling, it was mine. Come around to the other side and seen the license plate, and I knew it was my car.”

Barthany said two Hubbard men, Mark Blackburn, in his 40s, and Tim Ward, in his early 30s, were in the SUV. She loaned it to Blackburn so he could drive down to West Virginia.

“I’m not 100 percent sure that that’s the correct person yet,” Ross said.

Investigators admitted identifying the man and woman in the Honda may take even longer. Officials said the crash left them essentially unrecognizable.

“It’s just proving problematic…due to the nature of injuries and lack of identifying information,” Ross said.

Police did confirm they believe the victims in the Honda are from Tennessee.

“Carefully, methodically, and painstakingly, we will identify the remains,” said Mahoning County Coroner Dr. Joseph Ohr.

In the meantime, toxicology tests could reveal whether any of the victims had drugs or alcohol in their systems at the time.

“It’s something that’s certainly being looked at, but we would not be able to make that determination until the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office completes its autopsy,” Ross said.

As a string of white sheets covered the scene of the crash that happened around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Blackburn’s friends could be seen hurrying along the east side road toward the site where the two vehicles crashed head-on.

“When all these pictures started circulating on Facebook, my friends had seen them, they called me and said, ‘There’s an accident right around the corner from your house and it looks like your Jeep,'” Barthany said.

Blackburn was heading to West Virginia to pick up Barthany’s mother, who was also his girlfriend.

“He was a lovable person. He loved to hunt, he loved to fish, he loved the kids, they all loved to play with him,” Barthany said. “It’s really devastating right now.”

She had to call her mother with the bad news.

“She dropped the phone. My aunt had to pick it up and I just heard my mom screaming in the background.”

A man working at a nearby business heard the crash and found the Jeep’s passenger, who he said was Ward.

He said Ward was lying along the side of the road and had to be hospitalized.

“The passenger of the white Jeep said that his buddy was driving the Jeep and tried to pass somebody,” the man said.

The road has a double yellow centerline.

It took rescue crews two hours to remove the bodies. They had to use the jaws of life.

Route 62 was closed between Albert Street and Logangate Road while crews cleared the scene. It reopened just after 5 p.m.