Saturday, August 31, 2002

Pursuit ends in deadly crash

Teen who fled had been drinking

By Janice Morse,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FAIRFIELD — Michael Bryan Wilson died early Friday after fleeing police and wrecking a vehicle he shouldn't have been driving, police said.

[photo] This GMC truck was driven by Michael Bryan Wilson when it slammed into a utility pole early Friday.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Mr. Wilson, 18, had no Ohio driver's license and was driving an acquaintance's black 1988 GMC truck without permission, police said.

        He also tested positive for alcohol, although the amount was undetermined Friday, said Butler County Coroner Dr. Richard P. Burkhardt. Under Ohio law, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to drive with any measurable amount of alcohol in the blood, police said.

        Mr. Wilson had completed coursework at Fairfield High School but chose not to claim his diploma, so that he could enroll in an extended education program at D. Russel Lee Career-Technology Center.

        “This was a person who was trying to pursue a dream — and, unfortunately, that dream ended in a tragedy,” said Jeff Kursman, spokesman for the Fairfield City Schools.

        Mr. Wilson's relatives declined to comment, but Lynne Gruenemeier, who lives near his Wittenberg Drive home, said she couldn't imagine him committing the acts police described.

        “He's a good kid. He had a few problems, like all kids do,” Ms. Gruenemeier said, adding that Mr. Wilson attended Governors Baptist Church and “was loved by a lot of people.”

        He died around 5:20 a.m. following a 50-second chase that ended with a crash into a metal utility pole at Nilles Road and Hicks Boulevard, said Lt. Ken Colburn, Fairfield police spokesman.

        Lt. Colburn said that, in his 17 years on the force, the wreckage was “the worst-damaged vehicle I have ever seen.” Investigators' early estimates showed the vehicle was traveling at least 60 mph, Lt. Colburn said.

        Greg Lumpkin, 18, of Sherwood Drive in the Camelot Apartments, called police around 7:15 a.m. and “reported (his truck) stolen as we were at the scene investigating the crash,” Lt. Colburn said. Mr. Wilson was friends with Mr. Lumpkin's roommate and had spent the night at the apartment, Lt. Colburn said.

        He couldn't recall another Fairfield police chase that ended with a fatal crash.

        Although statewide numbers covering all Ohio police agencies were unavailable, the Ohio State Highway Patrol said that in 2001, their agency chased 442 suspects, four of whom died in crashes. The patrol said the most common reasons for fleeing were driving under the influence of alcohol and driving without a license.

        Lt. Colburn said a preliminary investigation showed that the officer who pursued Mr. Wilson was following proper procedures.

        He gave this account:

        Officer Rob Corner noticed the black truck eastbound on Nilles at Pleasant Avenue, traveling fast. The officer also noticed the vehicle make an illegal left turn onto Sandy Lane from the right lane of Nilles, then rapidly accelerate.

        Officer Corner, with his cruiser's sirens and lights running, followed the truck as it went southbound on Pleasant, ran a red light and turned eastbound onto Nilles, almost striking a westbound vehicle.

        Near May Avenue, the truck began to swerve. It went out of control and slid sideways into the pole, striking the driver's door.

        Police then had to perform the task they most dread: notifying a parent that their child has died.

        Mr. Wilson's loved ones were setting up a burial-expense fund at Fifth Third Bank, and arrangements were pending.


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