Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
U.S. 127 crash claims another life
Celina woman's car veered left of center, struck semitrailer
By Margie Wuebker
A 40-year-old local woman died late Monday morning in a car-semitrailer crash along U.S. 127, south of Celina.
Jennifer A. Kester of Celina was pronounced dead at the scene of the 11:45 a.m. crash that occurred just north of Clover Four Road. The incident was near the same area as a March 31 accident that killed four people and critically injured another.
Kester was traveling northbound on U.S. 127 when, for an unknown reason, her 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt veered left of center and struck the rear tires of a southbound 2002 International semitrailer driven by LeRoy E. Pohlman, 62, of Maria Stein. The car traveled off the east side of the road and the truck came to a stop in the intersection.
Pohlman later went by private vehicle to Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater for treatment.
Tow trucks removed the disabled rig owned by Mercer Landmark of Celina and the heavily damaged car.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said authorities do not believe drugs or alcohol were involved.
"There is no known cause at this time, and we will probably never know what really happened," he added. "The vehicles had nearly passed each other when the car hit the rear wheels."
Witnesses told investigators they observed no erratic driving by either driver until the car suddenly crossed the center line.
Assisting at the scene were firefighters from St. Henry and Coldwater, rescue squads from Celina, Coldwater and St. Henry and the Mercer County Emergency Response Volunteers.
Kester's father, George White of Celina, said his daughter was heading home at the time of the accident, but he did not know where she had been. Authorities found her son's welding equipment in the car.
Kester's 18-year-old son Jacob "Jake" Kester reportedly became concerned when she failed to show up with the equipment.
"He sensed something was wrong, and we called the sheriff's office to ask whether an accident had occurred," White said. "A lieutenant came to the door a half hour later with the terrible news - I have a new respect for the work the sheriff office has to do."
White said his daughter formerly worked as a graphic artist and had been dealing with medical issues.
"Jenny was such a happy person," her father recalled. "She always had a smile and she spent a lot of time with her son. This is really hard on Jake."
Grey plans to step up patrols along U.S. 127, hoping the sight of marked cruisers will cause motorists to pay more attention. Deputies will look for weaving vehicles and those crossing the center line.
"Hopefully motorists will pay more attention," he said. "Mercer County has been hurt really hard this year."
Kester's death marks the seventh traffic fatality of the year - six of the deaths occurring on U.S. 127 from Clover Four Road southward to state Route 119.
The first U.S. 127 fatality occurred March 6 when Rose Ann Garman, 84, of St. Henry, drove from a state Route 119 stop sign into the path of a car traveling southbound on U.S.127. Garman died the following day at a Dayton hospital.
The most recent accident on March 31 occurred when Zachary Elliott, 16, of Versailles, drifted left of center and his van collided head on with a car driven by Henry Fortkamp, 76, of Fort Recovery. Both drivers died as did Fortkamp's wife, 72-year-old Arlene Fortkamp, and a passenger, 75-year-old Rosamary Homan of Burkettsville. Homan's husband, 77-year-old Donald Homan, remains hospitalized.
The first traffic fatality occurred Jan. 23 along Mercer-Darke County Line Road when Lucas E. Staugler, 22, Fort Recovery, lost control of his car and struck a utility pole.
Funeral arrangements for Kester are pending at Hogenkamp-Lehman-Dzendzel Funeral Home, Celina.