Thursday, January 18th, 2007
By Margie Wuebker
Cause of driver's swerve unknown
  The Mercer County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate a Wednesday morning accident that claimed the life of a local social worker and seriously injured a veterans services driver.
Melissa "Missie" Kogge, 35, 260 S. Garfield St., Minster, was pronounced dead at the scene by Mercer County Coroner Dr. Timothy Heinricks.
The accident occurred at 8:10 a.m. along U.S. 127 near Johnston Road, when a southbound van driven by Karl W. Duff, 67, 217 S. Main St., Mendon, veered left of center and struck the northbound 2000 Chrysler minivan driven by Kogge.
Duff, a driver for Mercer County Veterans Services, was en route to pick up an area veteran for a medical appointment at the time of the accident.
"At this point we do not know what caused Mr. Duff to swerve left of center," Sheriff Jeff Grey said. "Alcohol or drugs were not a factor in the accident."
Amanda K. Gross, 30, 1926 Heritage Court, St. Marys, was following the full-size 2004 Ford van, owned by the Mercer County Commissioners when it suddenly drifted left of center striking the Kogge minivan.
The smaller vehicle spun before coming to rest with the rear portion on the east guardrail. Duff's vehicle veered across the southbound lane and came to rest against the west guardrail.
Gross attempted to avoid the collision but her Honda Pilot was struck by the full-size van. It came to rest after striking the west guardrail.
Firefighters and emergency medical services units from Celina and Coldwater responded to the scene and worked quickly to extricate Kogge and Duff from the wreckage.
Duff was taken by ambulance to Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater and later transferred by CareFlight helicopter to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, where he remains in fair condition.
Kogge, the mother of four young children, was en route to work at Foundations Behavioral Health Services in Celina, where she was a therapist and case management supervisor. A co-worker associated with the Tri County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services witnessed the accident, according to Foundations Executive Director Brian Engle.
"Missie will be missed greatly by all of us ... for her professionalism, her energy, her humor and her genuine caring for staff and clients," Engle told The Daily Standard. "Our organization has lost a competent co-worker and dear friend, and the community has lost a caring professional counselor."
Kogge joined the agency in 1994 as a case manager after graduating from Bowling Green State University and was later promoted to counselor. She went on to earn a master's degree in social work from Ohio State University and was a licensed independent social worker, which Engle described as the highest level of social worker.
Foundations closed Wednesday to allow the 30-member staff to deal with the tragedy. All calls to the agency were diverted to Westwood Behavioral Health Services in Van Wert. The agency, located at 4761 state Route 29, Celina, reopened today.
Funeral arrangements are pending at Hogenkamp Funeral Home in Minster.
Kogge's death marks the first traffic fatality in the county for 2007.
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