By Margie Wuebker
Mercer County recorded its second fatality in less than a week Sunday morning when a one-car crash claimed the life of a Celina man.
Robert L. Honchul, 19, 244 Lakeview Drive, Celina, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 3:12 a.m. accident by Mercer County Coroner Dr. Robert Heinrichs. along state Route 703 near Pershing Street.
Honchul was a front-seat passenger in a 1990 Chevy Lumina driven by Christopher R. Knapke, 19, 2916 Shore St., Celina, according to Mercer County Sheriff's Office reports.
Knapke was driving eastbound along state Route 703 near Pershing Road when the car traveled off the right side of the pavement and slid sideways into a utility pole. Honchul was ejected upon impact before the vehicle came to rest near Pershing Street.
Two young men working on a car in a nearby garage heard a loud crash followed by screams. They went to investigate and found Knapke kneeling over his friend's body. He repeatedly called "Honchul, are you OK?" before starting CPR. A nearby resident, awakened by the sound of the car striking the pole, called 911 to summon help.
Knapke was taken by ambulance to Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater, where he was treated and later released.
The accident remains under investigation as deputies try to determine what caused the car to leave the roadway. Knapke reportedly told authorities he was traveling approximately 65 miles per hour prior to the accident.
Honchul was the son of Terry and Chastity Honchul of Celina and Marie Hammond of Middletown.
"He could be described as the class clown or the life of the party," Chastity Honchul said in a voice choked with emotion. "He went out of his way to make sure everybody was happy."
He had complained of a sore left shoulder Saturday afternoon and she found a sling in hopes of easing the discomfort.
"Mom are you sure you know what you're doing," he asked as she put a right arm sling onto his left arm. They shared a laugh and later, as he prepared to leave for the evening, she asked whether he would be home that night.
"Yeah, I'll be home," he told her. "See you after while Mom" He flashed a smile and went out the door.
"Robert had a smile that could light up a room," his girlfriend Jamie Homan told The Daily Standard. "He loved to play basketball and softball and hang out with friends."
Hochul, whom friends affectionately called "Swiss," was just three streets from his destination -- a house where Homan happened to be -- when the accident occurred.
Deputies were assisted at the scene by the Celina Fire and Police departments as well as the Mercer County Emergency Response Volunteers.
On Aug. 8, Dorothy Ann Schaefer, 66, of Coldwater, died when she pulled into the path of a truck at the intersection of Hellwarth Road and state Route 29 west of Celina. She was en route home from bringing entries to the Mercer County Fair at the time.
See obituary on page 5