STONELICK TWP., Ohio – Darin Grubbs was driving home Thursday night on US 50 in Stonelick Township when his whole life changed.
Authorities said the 18-year-old fell asleep behind the wheel at about 10:45 p.m., and drove his 1998 Pontiac Sunfire off the left side of the road near milepost 12.
The car would smack into brush, skid down an embankment and land on its top in Peterson Run Creek. In seconds, Grubbs, his 38-year-old mother and his 4-year-old nephew were submerged in water.
"The water was even with the rocker panels and almost touching the wheels,” Stonelick Township Fire Chief Matthew Rose said. “The whole interior was submerged in water."
Investigators said Grubbs survived the crash with no injuries. But his nephew and mother had different fates.
Stonelick Township firefighters tried unsuccessfully to save his nephew’s life. His mother, Melissa Grubbs, was ejected during the crash.
Hamilton County Search and Rescue crews looked for her throughout the night and recovered her body at about 7:42 a.m. downstream from the crash site. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
"We walked past her the first time,” said Cincinnati Fire Department District Fire Chief Tom Lakamp. “No way to find her. She was in the water."
Grubbs’ friend Paige Cruz said she was stunned to see him at the Owensville BP station hours after the crash.
“He came in here and he was kind of in shock,” she said. “He was really unprepared for this. His mom and him were like best friends. They always were together. You couldn't see him without seeing his mom."
Cruz said Grubbs told her he hadn’t slept for several days before the crash.
“He said he remembered parts of it, where he was falling asleep at the wheel and he said he went around that corner and he fell right asleep," Cruz said.
Family members spoke highly of Grubbs and his mother, saying they were good and friendly people.
Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Wayne Price said Thursday’s severe weather was not a factor in the crash. He said drugs and alcohol are also not suspected to have been involved.
The crash remains under investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.