LISBON, Ohio (WKBN) – In a matter of seconds, tragedy struck four families, when two vehicles crashed head-on on state Route 518 in Wayne Township, just before 11 a.m. Sunday.
One of the vehicles, a Chevy Equinox, was headed west on State Route 518 and the other, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, was driving east.
“The crash is still under investigation. But it does appear that the vehicle traveling east on state Route 518 traveled left of center, striking the other vehicle,” said Lt. Joe Dragovich, Lisbon Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
There were nine people in the Chevy Equinox from three different families headed to a family function in Minerva. Three of them died at the scene, including the driver, James Nign, 39, of East Liverpool; his wife, Meghann, 27, who sitting in the front passenger seat; and Addisyn Benzel, 11, who was riding in the rear cargo area.
Police say the Nigns were not wearing seat belts, and Addisyn did not have a seat belt available. She was ejected onto the road and killed, Dragovich said.
Six other children, ranging in age from 9 months to 11 years old, also were inside the Equinox. According to a report from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, they included:
McKenna Nign, 11, who was in the rear cargo area with no restraints available. She was taken to Akron Children’s Hospital by ambulance.
McKayla Howard, 11, who also was in the rear cargo area with no restraints available. She was taken by ambulance to Aultman Hospital in Canton.
Savanah D. Nign, 6, who was seated on Meghann Nign’s lap in the front passenger seat. She was taken by helicopter to UPMC Children’s Hospital.
Chase Nign, 4, who was in a child safety seat in the back seat. He was taken by helicopter to UPMC Children’s Hospital.
Brody Nign, 1, who was in a child safety seat in the back seat. He was taken by helicopter to UPMC Children’s Hospital.
Payslee Nign, 9 months, who was in a child safety seat in the back seat. She was taken by helicopter to UPMC Children’s Hospital.
The owner’s manual for Chevrolet said the Equinox is designed for five people. However, Salem attorney Brian Macala said that’s not illegal according to Ohio laws.
“There are no laws in the state of Ohio as to the maximum amount of people you can have in a vehicle,” Macala said.
However, the state does have seat belt laws that state any person under the age of 15 is to be restrained in a motor vehicle.
“That’s an ongoing struggle. We urge people to wear their seat belts and it’s something that we’re goijg to be enforcing even more in 2014,” said Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt.. Craig Monte.
Rachel Lindesmith, 31, of Hanoverton, was driving the Jeep with her 9-month-old son, Austin, in the back in a car seat.
They were transported to St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown and Salem Regional Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.
At this time, investigators are trying to figure out what caused Lindesmith to swerve left of center.
Lt. Dragovich says the roads in that area can be very tricky.
“One of the unique situations about Columbiana County is the terrain and the terrain is not suited for taking your eyes off the road, we have a lot of grades, crests, hills and curves and when you’re driving along our roads in Columbiana County, your focus should be on the road,” said Dragovich.
Troopers said an accident reconstruction will take place Tuesday. They also have spoken with Lindesmith, but it is unknown what was said.