Monday, November 19, 2001

Teen dies after SUV
runs down Bengals fans

Paraplegic drives through red light outside stadium

By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A paraplegic driving a car unequipped for his disability sped through a red light outside Paul Brown Stadium before Sunday's Bengals game, police said, killing a 15-year-old Mason boy and injuring five others.

Darrin Stafford sits in his wheelchair behind the SUV he drove into Bengals fans as other fans make their way into the stadium.
(Steven M. Herppich photos)
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        Scott Asbrock, the son of an Ohio state trooper based at the Hamilton barracks, died Sunday afternoon at University Hospital.

        Like most of those struck, he was on his way to the game. Screams and chaos followed the crash, sending dozens of fans scrambling, traumatized.

        “We heard a horrible noise and I saw a body flying over the vehicle,” said Ken Mink, 65, of Knoxville, Tenn., who was 20 feet away when the accident occurred at 11:42 a.m.

        Cincinnati Police Officer Jon Harris, who was directing traffic at the intersection, pushed another fan from the Kia Sportage's path and was struck in the hand by the SUV's mirror. He was treated at University Hospital and released.

How it happened
        Police were baffled as to how Darrin Stafford, 30, of Evansville, Ind. — who is paralyzed from the waist down — was able to drive. He told officers his foot got caught between the brake and accel erator, said Lt. Kurt Byrd, police spokesman.

        Mr. Stafford has a restricted Indiana driver's license that requires special adaptive steering and hand controls. The sport utility vehicle, owned by his passenger, Frederick Shipman, 43, of Birmingham, Ala., has no such devices.

        Mr. Stafford was charged with one count of aggravated vehicular homicide and three counts of aggravated vehicular assault and is being held in the Hamilton County Justice Center.

        Mr. Shipman was charged with complicity on each of those charges. He also faces one count of criminal damage for attempting to kick out the backseat window of a police squad car, police said. He is also being held at the Justice Center.

        “It was unbelievable bedlam, and to hear people screaming for at least a minute,” said Officer Harris, reached later at District 3 offices. “It happened so quick. I wish I could have done more.

        “I just saw this red object out of the corner of my eye,” the five-year veteran said. “The one I pushed out of the way never saw it coming.”

        Also injured were:

        • Stewart Williams, 21, of Middletown, who was in critical condition at University Hospital Sunday night.

        • His companion, Jami Henderson, also 21, of Middletown, treated for minor injuries at Good Samaritan Hospital and released.

        • Kyle Fields, 18, of Madeira, who was in serious condition at University.

        • His brother, Kenneth Fields, 20, of Madeira, who was struck but declined treatment at University.

        Scott Asbrock was the son of Ohio Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Asbrock.

        Investigators were perplexed by how Mr. Stafford, who told police he has no feeling from the waist down, could operate a vehicle.

        But Lt. Byrd said they think they know why: Mr. Shipman might have been intoxicated and allowed Mr. Stafford to drive.

        Officer Harris, 37, said the man was traveling “40 miles an hour, minimum” and did not slow down. The speed limit changes from 35 mph to 25 mph about 50 feet before the Second and Elm street intersection.

        “It's horrendous, I keep replaying it in my head,” Officer Harris said.

        Mr. Stafford and Mr. Shipman were traveling east on Second Street, in heavy traffic, when they approached a red light and a stream of crossing pedestrians at Elm Street under the direction of Cincinnati police.

        There were no apparent skid marks, police said. The vehicle stopped a block away, at Second and Race streets.

The vehicle stopped a block away from the impact.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
        There were two tickets to the Bengals game on the passenger seat, said Officer Harris, who ran a block to apprehend them.

        “Somebody yelled "Stop!', real loud, panicky,” Mr. Mink recalled, “but it was obviously too late.”

        “I was so horrified,” said Gail Mahon, 55, of Westwood, who stood at Elm and Second streets selling Bengals programs.

        “It could have been worse,” she said, visibly shaken. “He could have taken out 15, easy. He just weaved through the intersection.”

        “We are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic incident that occurred prior to this afternoon's game,” Bengals President Mike Brown said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the individuals involved and their families.”


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