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Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Four killed in accident

By Shelley Grieshop
ST. HENRY - A head-on crash Saturday night involving a car and a minivan took the lives of three Mercer County residents and a Versailles teen.
Pronounced dead at the scene on U.S. 127, near Clover Four Road, was the driver of the car, Henry Fortkamp Jr., 76, of Fort Recovery. His wife, Arlene, 72, and another passenger, Rosamary Homan, 75, Burkettsville, were seated in the rear of the vehicle. The women were pronounced dead at Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater.
Homan's husband, Donald, 77, a front-seat passenger, remained in critical condition this morning at Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton.
The driver and sole occupant of the minivan, Zachary Deo Elliott, 16, was taken by squad to the Coldwater hospital and then flown by emergency helicopter to the Dayton hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The report from the Mercer County Sheriff's Office said Elliott was driving northbound on U.S. 127 when for an unknown reason the 2004 Chevy Venture van veered left of center and struck Fortkamp's 1997 Buick LeSabre about 8:15 p.m. Both vehicles sustained heavy damage.
Minutes before the crash, the Versailles sophomore dropped off his parents, Eric and Michelle, at Overdrive along U.S. 127 to attend a show. The accident occurred less than a mile from the entertainment facility, Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said.
The teen planned to go fishing at Grand Lake - a favorite past-time - and return to pick up his parents later in the evening, Grey said. The investigation offered no clues to what caused the van to travel left of center.
"We just don't know at this point, and we may never know," he said.
Two emergency helicopters were summoned to the Coldwater hospital and met by four ambulances from St. Henry, Coldwater and Celina. Assisting at the accident scene were Coldwater and St. Henry fire departments and traffic volunteers. Motorists were detoured around the scene for nearly two hours.
The elderly couples had gone to Mass earlier in the day before meeting two other couples for dinner in the Celina area, according to Homans' daughter, Cathy Lennartz of Fort Recovery.
"They were probably heading home," she said, fighting back tears.
She said it was unusual that all their close friends had found a free night to spend time together.
Arlene Fortkamp and Rosamary Homan were lifelong friends who ran around together in school, Lennartz said. They were part of a bigger group of girlfriends who called themselves the "old hens."
Rosamary Homan raised eight children and helped her husband on the family farm, her daughter said. She was a compassionate person who showed a lot of love toward her family and friends.
"It's going to be tough," she said. "She'll be missed."
Lennartz said she is keeping the Elliott family in her prayers, too, and realizes how tough this must be for the young man's family.
Henry and Arlene Fortkamp also were farmers. Henry Fortkamp had been employed at Mersman Brothers in Celina and Fort Recovery Equity. The couple had five children.
Funeral arrangements for all three victims are being handled by Brockman-Boeckman Funeral Home, Fort Recovery.
Elliott, who was nicknamed "Jumbo," was a member of Versailles FFA and the Darke County 4-H Club. He played on the school's football and wrestling teams and was employed at Weaver Brothers in Versailles.
Funeral arrangements are being conducted by Bailey Zechar Funeral Home, Versailles.
Obituaries for all the victims are published on page 5A.
The deaths mark the third- through sixth traffic fatalities in Mercer County this year.
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