PERRY TWP. - A four-vehicle accident on state Route 344 at Chestnut Grove Road Thursday sent five people to area hospitals, including a driver who escaped before his truck became engulfed in flames.
Robert Cruz, 19, of Leetonia, was cited for assured clear distance after trying to avoid hitting the rear of another westbound car with his truck, causing a chain reaction of events.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, a Ford Focus driven by Rebecca Wilks, 22, of Salem, was stopped to turn left onto Chestnut Grove Road from state Route 344 when Cruz, who was behind her, swerved his Chevy pickup to the right to try to avoid hitting her car.
A patrol trooper said the pickup hit the right side of the car on the way around, then traveled left of center, striking an eastbound Chevy Venture van driven by Nathan Ring, 30, of Salem. The van then hit the front of a Volkswagon Passat driven by Adam Mead, 30, of Salem, who was stopped for the stop sign at Chestnut Grove Road.
Mead and Wilks were not injured. Perry Township firefighters responded and received assistance from Salem city firefighters to extricate Ring from the van. Cruz, Ring, and two of Ring's passengers, 35-year-old Melissa Tomlin and 11-year-old Dallas Tomlin, both of Salem, were transported by ambulance to Salem Community Hospital. A third passenger, 13-year-old Cassandra Tomlin, of Salem, was transported to St. Elizabeth Hospital.
According to the trooper who handled the accident, none of the injuries appeared life-threatening. The patrol received the call at 5:25 p.m., with Perry Township Police assisting with traffic control.