Feb. 3 trial date set in crash that claimed 3 lives

LISBON – The fate of a Hanoverton-area woman charged with allegedly causing a Jan. 19 traffic accident that left three people dead and six others injured will be decided in six months.

A trial date of Feb. 3 was scheduled in the case of Rachael K. Lindesmith, 31, during a hearing held Friday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court. She is charged with three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and five counts of aggravated vehicular assault.

The charges carry a maximum possible combined sentence of 22-1/2 years in prison if convicted.

The traffic accident occurred just west of Gavers on state Route 518 about 11 a.m., when the Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Lindesmith reportedly crossed the center line on the two lane road, striking head-on a Chevrolet Equinox driven by James Nign, 39, of Calcutta.

The accident claimed the life of Nign, his wife Meghann, 27, and a passenger, 11-year-old Addisyn Benzel of Minerva, who was ejected from the cargo hold where she was riding.

There were six other people in the Equinox: McKenna Nign, 11; McKayla Howard, 11; Savannah Nign, 6; Chayse Nign, 4; Brody Nign, 2; and Payslee Nign, 9 months old. The aggravated vehicular assault charges apply to all of these passengers, except for Howard.

All were taken to local hospitals with varying degrees of injuries, plus Lindesmith and her 9-month-old son, who was riding with her in a car seat.

Neither the Nigns nor four of their seven passengers were wearing seat belts or otherwise restrained. This included Benzel and two other children riding in the cargo area and another child sitting on Mrs. Nign’s lap.

The accident attracted the attention of state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, who introduced a bill that would allow police to pull over a vehicle if they see a child passenger is not wearing a seat belt or in a car seat. While children are required to wear a seat belt or be in a car seat under current law, it is a secondary offense, which means a seat belt violation can only be issued if the driver is pulled over for committing a primary traffic offense, such as speeding.

Schiavoni’s bill would make it a primary offense for an youth to be in a vehicle without being restrained, allowing police to pull over a driver if they see a child not wearing a seat belt or riding in a car seat.