YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Nearly a year after an Ohio Turnpike snowplow truck driver sprayed snow and ice at oncoming traffic, turnpike officials confirmed to News 5 that $84,043 has been distributed so far to drivers and passengers impacted from that incident.
An Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission spokesperson said 38 claims have been either paid or closed out of 64 claims filed.
When broken down, that amounts to about $2,200 per impacted individual so far.
The incident on Jan. 23 involved more than 50 cars, trucks and semis stretched across six miles on the Ohio Turnpike just south of Sandusky.
Wild video along Ohio Turnpike south of Sandusky.... Driver says several vehicles damaged. Turnpike spokesperson says "We are aware of the incident [and] are conducting investigations. Appropriate action will be taken pending the outcome of these investigations.” pic.twitter.com/jIm45f7x5X— Clay LePard (@ClayLePard) January 24, 2022
When asked about those 26 remaining claims that haven’t been paid out yet, a turnpike spokesperson provided the following response:
“All of the release forms have been sent to the remaining claimants, but have not yet been returned. As soon as the Ohio Turnpike receives a signed release form, it is processed for payment.”
The Ohio Turnpike is self-funded through the tolls it collects from drivers on their roads and is not managed by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), but rather by a commission consisting of appointees made by Ohio elected officials, as well as other Ohio officeholders.
Linda Rust of Youngstown is among those whose claim has been processed.
"I think the turnpike should have stepped forward a lot more than they did," she explained. "The turnpike wrecked my car but the turnpike did not fix my car."
Rust told News 5 she received only about $2,700 from the turnpike, reimbursing her for her tow bill and rental car. However, Rust added that total does not include the $3,200 needed to actually fix her car.
"They pushed me into settling," she said. "My insurance company ended up paying for my car to get fixed. The turnpike did not."
An Ohio State Highway Patrol crash report detailed how Rust had her eyes washed out after bits of her windshield ended up all over her car. She said it was a traumatic event that she still gets a reminder of every once in awhile.
"Glass will blow up through the vent," she explained. "I get glass once in a while."
Other reported injuries involving other drivers from that day include broken noses, bruising, and cuts.
In February, the Ohio Turnpike fired that driver.
Just two months later, a grand jury declined to indict the driver on charges including inducing a panic and aggravated vehicular assault.
News 5 reached out to the plow driver, who we are not naming since he was never formally charged with a crime. He quickly declined.
However, in a statement as part of the crash report, that driver, who had worked for the Ohio Turnpike for six years, said he had no idea he was pushing snow into oncoming traffic.
“Windows were sloppy and fogged up," he said. "Mirrors were sloppy, icy [and] powdery snow was blowing around.”
When News 5 notified Linda Rust about the Ohio Turnpike's claim status for other drivers, she said the math doesn't add up.
"$84,000 doesn’t seem to justify anything," she said. "I know there couldn’t be any pain and suffering for anybody, let alone get their cars fixed."
Going forward, Rust said she now avoids the Ohio Turnpike and driving in inclement weather.
"To be honest, I'm still afraid to drive in the slush," she said. "It was a 'I thought I was dead' kind of accident."
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