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01-15-04: Minster teen dies in traffic accident


A 16-year-old Minster boy was killed and his friend seriously injured in a single-car accident Wednesday afternoon, one-half mile west of the village of Minster.
The death of Minster High School sophomore Michael S. Kemper of 2103 Minster-Egypt Pike comes exactly four years to the day after the teen lost his father unexpectedly due to a heart ailment.
Kemper was pronounced dead at the scene by Auglaize County Coroner Dr. Thomas Freytag. The single-car accident occurred on Minster-Egypt Pike, less than a mile from the boy’s home.
Kemper’s passenger, Joseph D. Wiford, also 16, 5144 Bon ton Road, Minster, was listed in fair condition this morning at Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton, where he was taken by CareFlight helicopter. Wiford reportedly underwent surgery Wednesday evening and suffered at least one broken bone in his leg.
Kemper, the son of Kathy (Knapke) Kemper, was driving a 1995 Pontiac Grand Prix west on Minster-Egypt Pike when he lost control of the car about 12:30 p.m.
According to a report from the Wapakoneta post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the tires of the car dropped off the left side of the road, causing Kemper to swerve off the right side of the roadway and into a private yard. The car then struck a power pole and the driver’s side came to rest leaning against it.
Trooper Lisa Miller told The Daily Standard this morning the top of the pole broke off and power lines were lying across the car when rescue workers arrived. Dayton Power & Light crews were summoned to the scene to safely dispose of the power lines before the boys could be removed from the vehicle.
Miller said the cause of the crash appears to be excessive speed and the driver may have been distracted, although the investigation is ongoing. Seat belts appeared to have been used by both boys, she added.
Kemper’s aunt, Melanie Ojala, told The Daily Standard this morning the two boys and one of Kemper’s cousins had eaten lunch together earlier in the day, and the cousin was dropped off at his home prior to the crash. Kemper and Wiford were returning to Kemper’s house when the accident occurred, she said.
“He will be so deeply missed,” Ojala said in a soft voice. “He was a good boy, he couldn’t work hard enough. His mother is in shock right now, just trying to put one foot in front of the other.”
Ojala said the boy’s father, Steve, died in his sleep at the young age of 42, after suffering a ruptured aorta artery. The coincidence of the father and son’s deaths on the same date is almost more than the family can comprehend right now, she said.
Surviving with Kemper’s mother are two sisters, Lynn, 22, of Piqua, and Katie, 19, who lives at home.
Kemper was a member of the high school football team, the Catholic Youth Organization basketball team and the school’s FFA club.
His death marks Auglaize County’s first traffic fatality of the year. A complete obituary appears on page 5A.
Kemper and Wiford both had permission from their parents to leave the school early Wednesday, school Superintendent Halver Belcher said this morning. Minster High School students are currently observing exam week and are excused during portions of the day — with parental permission — if they do not have tests to take, he added.
It was a somber morning at the school today as the entire student body met for an assembly before classes began, Belcher said.
“I told them this was the most difficult speech I’ve ever had to give a group. I just wanted to let them know it was OK to express their feelings right now. This was so unexpected, such a difficult time for everybody,” Belcher said.
Both boys are members of the sophomore class, which met with school staff and counselors following the assembly. Counselors and clergy from the community were on hand at the school as part of the district’s crisis plan.
A prayer service is set for 7 p.m. tonight at St. Augustine Catholic Church, with viewing and funeral services to follow Friday and Saturday.


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