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Nativity victim dies - charges expected

By:  Star Beacon - Mark Todd

ASHTABULA — Charges could be filed next week against a driver who may have caused a chain-reaction accident that killed a spectator and injured others viewing a live nativity scene outside an Ashtabula church early Wednesday night.

Richard Seckman, 57, of Ashtabula, succumbed to injuries he suffered when he was struck by a pickup truck that apparently was knocked into a group of people watching the nativity outside Trinity Presbyterian Church, 1342 W. Prospect Road, police said.

Seckman was one of two spectators flown to Cleveland MetroHealth after the accident. The second man was identified as Eli Roath, 53, also of Ashtabula. His condition was unknown Thursday afternoon.

A third man, Dwight Williams, 72, of Ashtabula, was treated for injuries and released, police said.

As many as six people, including the driver at the center of the case, may have suffered injuries in what Ashtabula Police Sgt. Ronald Kaydo termed a “freak accident.” Kaydo is commander of the department’s fatal crash investigation team.

On Thursday, police interviewed a 29-year-old Ashtabula woman who may have triggered the tragic event. Charges could be filed early next week, Kaydo said.

Police gave this account of the accident:

The woman, accompanied by three children, was westbound on West Prospect Avenue when she attempted a left-hand turn onto a side street. The woman, whom police declined to identify, wanted to see the nativity scene.

She pulled into the path of an eastbound pickup truck, police said. The impact knocked a wheel off the truck and sent it over the curb on the south side of West Prospect Avenue. A few feet away stood a small group of people watching the church’s live nativity.

The woman was injured in the crash and transported to Ashtabula County Medical Center, Kaydo said. The three children were not hurt, he said.

The driver of the pickup truck, whom police identified as a 30-year-old Painesville man, escaped injury, police said.

Investigators are checking reports that more people may have been hospitalized, Kaydo said.

“There could be two more casualties, and they could be in Cleveland,” he said.

A call to the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office Thursday was not immediately returned.

A witness to the accident gave a horrific description of the scene. Norm Jepson, retired Ashtabula fire chief and a supervisor for Community Care Ambulance Service, said he was portraying one of the magi in the nativity scene.

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