GAVERS - Three people are dead and eight people injured following a head-on collision involving two SUVs that occurred Sunday morning on state Route 518 in Wayne Township, just west of Ohio 164.
James D. Nign, 39, of East Liverpool, and his wife Meghann Nign, 27, and Addisyn Benzel, 11, of Minerva, who were among the passengers in the Chevrolet Equinox being driven by Nign. All three died as a result of the accident.
The accident occurred about a half mile west of Gavers at 10:54 a.m. Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. Joseph Dragovich said Nign was driving west on the two-lane road when his SUV was struck head-on by a Jeep Grand Cherokee operated by Rachel K. Lindesmith, 31, of Hanoverton, who went left of center.
In the back seat of Lindesmith's Grand Cherokee was her 9-month-old son Austin, who was in a car seat.
Both Lindesmith and her son were taken by ambulance to the Salem Regional Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. Lindesmith, who was wearing a seat belt, was later transferred to St. Elizabeth Trauma Center in Youngstown.
There were six other passengers in the Equinox besides the Nigns and Benzel: McKenna N. Nign, 11; McKayla E. Howard, 11; Savanah D. Nign, 6; Chase D. Nign, 4; Brody B. Nign, 1; and Payslee R. Nign, 9 months old.
Riding in the cargo area of the Equinox, besides Benzel, were McKenna and Howard. The force of the impact resulted in Benzel being ejected from vehicle.
Howard was taken by ambulance to Aultman Hospital in Canton was, while McKenna was taken to Akron Children's Hospital. Savanah, Chase, Brody and Payslee Nign were flown by helicopter to UPMC Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Dragovich said the only ones in the Equinox using any restraints/seat belts were the children in the car seats.
The stretch of road was closed until about 5 p.m.
While Dragovich said they do not know at this point why the SUV went left of center, the tragic accident should serve as a reminder of the importance of wearing seat belts and the need to be alert at all times while driving, especially on the county's hilly and windy roads.