Monday, July 16th, 2012
By Margie Wuebker
Two men die in fiery crash
  Two men were killed early Saturday morning when the car in which they were riding veered out of control, struck two trees and burst into flames along state Route 119 near St. Henry. The accident occurred at 2:58 a.m., 20 minutes after the driver had been issued a warning from a Coldwater police officer.
Ryan J. Billenstein, 27, of Coldwater, was driving westbound on state Route 119 at a high rate of speed when his 2006 Pontiac GTO traveled off the south side of the road near the Lange/Fleetfoot Road intersection. The car spun out of control and the back end struck two trees in a nearby yard, according to Mercer County Sheriff's Office reports.
Billenstein and front-seat passenger Bethany Marie Wentworth, 21, of Greenville, escaped the burning vehicle and pulled Craig A. Gengler, 22, of Celina, from the right rear seat. They were unable to free the other backseat passenger, Vincent Anthony Gragorace, 21, of Greenville. Gengler and Gragorace were pronounced dead at the scene.
Billenstein, who reportedly suffered burns to the hands and arms, and Wentworth were taken by ambulance to Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater. Both were treated in the emergency room and released.
Coldwater Police Chief Randy Waltmire told The Daily Standard that Coldwater Patrolman Dave Powell, a four-year member of the department, stopped Billenstein along East Main Street at Fifth Street at 2:38 a.m. and issued a warning for a lanes of travel violation. A computer log entry indicated the traffic stop took roughly four minutes. A field sobriety test was not given, according to the log.
Minutes later Mercer County Central Dispatch received a call regarding an erratic driver traveling at a high rate of speed along U.S. 127, south of state Route 219. The caller did not have a license plate number but gave a description of the car, which reportedly had been on display at the car show in Celina earlier in the evening. Powell contacted Central Dispatch to report the description was similar to the car he had stopped.
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said the car's rate of travel at the time of the accident was considerably over the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. He would not release any further details, saying the accident remains under investigation.
Waltmire said Powell will be assisting deputies with the investigation as needed.
"At this time we do not know whether the occupants were using safety belts or whether the air bags deployed because the car was totally destroyed by fire," Grey said. "We do not know at this point whether alcohol or drugs were involved."
A blood sample was drawn from Billenstein; toxicology results will take six to eight weeks to receive.
The completed accident report will be sent to the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office for review and possible charges.
Responding to the scene in addition to deputies were St. Henry Fire Department, St. Henry Emergency Medical Services, assistant prosecutor Matt Fox and the Mercer County Emergency Response Volunteers.
It was the seventh fatal crash in the county this year, bringing the total number of traffic deaths to 12.
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
• Rescue boat to get lake house
• Dr. David Nielsen announces retirement
• Mariners snap four-game losing skid
• ACME schedule
a_d
Thursday Night
41°
Mostly Cloudy
1%
Friday
61°
Partly Sunny
5%
Friday Night
48°
Partly Cloudy
9%
Saturday
68°
Partly Sunny
12%
Saturday Night
44°
Mostly Clear
4%
Sunday
61°
Mostly Sunny
Sunday Night
45°
Mostly Clear
5%
Monday
73°
Partly Sunny
5%
Monday Night
58°
Partly Cloudy
Tuesday
72°
Mostly Cloudy
48%
Tuesday Night
48°
Rain Showers Likely
70%
3 Day
Extended
a_da_d
camera_logo Photo Albums
Wednesday, October 22
index pict
Tuesday, October 21
index pict
video_logoOnline Video
Thursday, October 2
index pict
Accident at 127 and 119
Monday, September 29
index pict
Grand Lake Marathon