CINCINNATI -- A Jeep full of teenagers was struck on westbound Interstate 74 near Interstate 275 as it pulled back into traffic after stopping to help a broken down vehicle, deputies said.
The Jeep, containing eight teenagers (six juveniles), was struck by a Honda Civic at around 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office said in a news release early Sunday.
The Jeep, driven by 18-year-old Tommy Pankey of Cincinnati, pulled over to help a friend -- Mary Lewis, 18, of Cincinnati -- jump-start her car on the right shoulder of the interstate, according to the news release. Pankey was unable to jump-start the car; he offered Lewis a ride in the trunk of the Jeep and began to make a U-Turn to get off the shoulder and back in the direction of traffic.
While in reverse, the Jeep entered the left lane of the interstate. A Honda Civic, driven by David Briccio, 55, of West Harrison, Indiana, was traveling in the left lane interstate, the same lane in which the Jeep was sitting, deputies said. Briccio braked and swerved but could not avoid the Jeep and struck it.
Lewis suffered serious injuries in the crash and was taken to Mercy West Hospital. Green Township Fire Department said she is in stable condition. Briccio was also taken to the hospital with some injuries but is in "good condition."
In addition to Lewis who was seated in the trunk, deputies said five passengers were seating in the back seat of the Jeep, with Pankey driving and a juvenile female in the passenger seat. No one in the Jeep was wearing a seat belt, deputies said.
Police said speed, drugs and alcohol are ruled out as factors in the crash. Pankey was cited for unsafe backing and driving with a suspended license; Briccio was not cited.
The Hamilton County Sheriff's traffic unit is investigating the case.
'100 Deadliest Days' Starts Soon
Cheryl Parker, with AAA, said the crash is a reminder of the so-called "100 Deadliest Days" for teen drivers, which starts Memorial Day weekend.
"School's out. Teens are more care-free. The weather is usually nicer. And unfortunately, the number of teen crashes and teen fatalities rises during that time period," she said.
Parker also said the majority of people killed and injured in crashes involving a teen driver are people other than the teen themselves.
"Distraction is one of the biggest problems -- and not just teens on their cell phones, but other teen passengers," Parker said.
Experts' advice for teen drivers:
- Stay focused, scan the road and use mirrors to watch for other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians
- Keep belongings out of reach, and where they're not free to roll around in the car
- Adjust vehicle settings before taking off, including GPS, seats, mirrors, AC and heat, and radio
- Avoid dressing, applying cosmetics while behind the wheel
- Eat before you leave home so you don't snack when you're on the road
- Do not use mobile devices - phone calls, text messaging and social media can wait
Let passengers know you need to be alert, encourage their help to keep you focused