Friday, December 01, 2000

'Ramping' hazard remains

Few changes made to curb practice

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        TURTLECREEK TWP. — The relatives of two teens killed while “hill-hopping” a year ago recently placed a small white cross at the crash site.

        It sits between two small trees mowed down just two weeks ago, when another group of kids were hurt launching their car while going 82 mph over the top of a hill on narrow McClure Road, just west of Lebanon.

[photo] A cross marks the spot where two Mason High School athletes were killed and a third teen injured when their car crashed while they were “hill-hopping” on McClure Road, just west of Lebanon, last November.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
        The deaths of two Mason High School athletes the day before Thanksgiving last year has only drawn more thrill-seeking teens to the spot, area residents say.

        Yet the only action officials have taken to curb hill-hopping, also known as ramping or launching, is to install a fluorescent sign that warns of a “high accident area.” Attempts to lower the speed limit to 45 mph have been delayed while awaiting accident reports from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, County Engineer Neil Tunison said.

        “You are open for another disaster,” said tow truck driver Chris Jacob, who was at the scene of 1999's fatal crash. “It will happen again.

        “They aren't going to pay attention to the sign. They're going out for one reason, and that's to hill-hop,” said Mr. Jacob, who still vividly recalls seeing 16-year-old Jordan Walker's red Mustang wrapped around a utility pole last November.

        Troy Mullikin, 15, and Jordan both died, and a third teen was injured.

        Turtlecreek trustees and Warren County officials looked into ways to discourage hill-hopping last winter but got the impression after meetings with residents that they didn't want radical changes to their road.

        “It's a situation where if we make any improvements at all, the state requires that we go all the way,” Trustee Dan George said.

        But there might have been some misunderstanding about that.

        If the township removes the top of the hill and fills in the valley, Mr. Tunison said Thursday, it might not have to widen the road, add guardrails and raze a hilltop house.

        But it would have to make sure the slope meets the modern standard for visibility at 45 mph, he said, resulting in a rather extensive project costing $500,000 to $600,000. And the bill would be the township's responsibility.

        Just do something, several residents say.

        “Reckless and excessive speed is not only a hazard to the hill jumpers, but to every driver, cyclist, runner and resident of the road,” Marty Kohler, who lives at the bottom of the hill, wrote in a letter to trustees shortly after the latest accident.

        Bob Duncan, who lives at “launch central” atop the hill, agrees. He has been first at the scene of two crashes, he said, including one in which he saw a half-attached hand hanging out of a car.

        “This is an instance where we can make it safer. It's a no-brainer,” Mr. Duncan said. “If ripping down my house is what it takes, go ahead.”

        County and township officials will meet next week to reopen discussions about McClure Road.

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