Monday, July 13th, 2009
Police investigate high speed chase, accident
Three people receive injuries; home damaged
By Margie Wuebker
Minster Police are investigating another high speed pursuit in the village.
This one involved minor injuries to three occupants of a speeding car as well as structural damage to a local woman's garage early Saturday morning. An earlier pursuit on June 7 ended when a Maria Stein motorcyclist crashed and died a short time later of multiple injuries.
The Saturday pursuit involved Austin Shortridge, 21, 170 S. Hanover St., Minster, who was southbound in the 300 block of South Main Street, when Police Sgt. Kirby Cummins observed the 2002 Ford Focus driving without headlights.
Cummins attempted a traffic stop at approximately 3:30 a.m. but Shortridge failed to comply and fled west on First Street. The suspect then turned north onto Hanover Street and then traveled into a private drive at 170 S. Hanover St. Shortridge continued through the yard before turning north onto an alley between Hanover and Lincoln streets.
The pursuit, which reached estimated speeds of 70 miles per hour, continued north across Third, Fourth and Fifth streets. Shortridge lost control of his vehicle while traveling through the alley adjacent to Minster Elementary School and the St. Augustine Catholic Church parking lot. The car struck a concrete curb, traveled across a grassy embankment and plowed into a brick-walled garage of Roseann Puthoff, 52 E. Fifth St., Minster.
Shortridge fled the scene, leaving three injured passengers behind, and was located later. The passengers - Brandon L. Steele, 22, of Sidney; Jill A. Knaser, 24, 419 E. Monroe St., New Bremen; and Michael J. Elliott, 35, of Troy - were taken by Minster Area Life Squad and New Bremen Emergency Medical Services to Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys. All were treated then released, according to Minster Police reports. Minster-Jackson Township Fire Department also responded to the scene.
Although no one sustained injury at the Puthoff residence, minor damage was done to a vehicle parked inside the garage. The heavily damaged Shortridge car was impounded.
The Wapakoneta Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol continues to investigate the accident. Preliminary findings indicate speed and alcohol were contributing factors.
Minster Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the pursuit, which covered eight blocks over the course of 11/2 minutes. No charges have been filed as yet, and the police department does have a policy that allows pursuits.
The June 7 pursuit began at 2:58 a.m. when Minster Patrolman Chris Fetters spotted Nathan P. Thobe, 25, 7967 state Route 119, Maria Stein, failing to observe a stop sign at the intersection of West First and Cleveland streets.
The OSHP determined Thobe was driving at least 77 miles per hour when he failed to negotiate a curve from Industrial Drive onto Executive Parkway in the Minster Industrial Park. The Kawasaki Ninja struck a curb ejecting Thobe a distance of 75 feet from the point of impact.
Cummins, a two-year veteran of the department, was on duty but did not take part in the pursuit on June 7. He, like responding officers from the New Bremen and Fort Loramie police departments, attempted to slow Thobe with rolling road blocks.
Minster Police Chief Randy Houseworth declined to comment further on the latest pursuit, pointing out the investigation is continuing. He also declined to elaborate on the investigation into the earlier incident until such time as the case is reviewed by an Auglaize County grand jury. All accidents resulting in fatalities receive this consideration.