CINCINNATI – Heroin users are getting high and getting behind the wheel with no concern for themselves, their passengers or other drivers, police say.
And the danger of getting in a crash with a heroin user is increasing.
That was apparent Wednesday when two drivers high on heroin caused two serious crashes on southbound Interstate 75, ejecting one driver's 5-year-old daughter and another driver onto the busy highway, according to police.
Luckily, no one was critically injured and these drivers only hit concrete walls, not other cars. But it's just a matter of time, warned Lt. Bruce Hoffbauer, commander of the Cincinnati Traffic Section.
"Folks who decide to put this heroin in their system or even drive impaired are putting their life at risk and innocent peoples' lives at risk," Hoffbauer said. "So, is a wakeup call heavy jail time? Is a wakeup call them being seriously injured? Or, is the wakeup call in this one crash where a 5-year-old daughter of the driver is ejected from the car and injured?
"If that's not a wakeup call for someone to change their behavior, I don't know what would be."
The drivers in both crashes took heroin just before getting on the highway, Hoffbauer said.
The second crash happened near the Western Hills Viaduct about 9:30 p.m., when the driver lost control and his SUV bounced like a pin ball back and forth from one concrete wall to the other before rolling over.
"We believe the 5-year old passenger in the back seat -- the daughter of the driver -- was ejected from the car at that time," Hoffbauer said.
Fire officials mistakenly tweeted that 8-10 cars were involved in a massive collision when it turned out to be just one. Traffic apparently came to a screeching stop and might have given the appearance of a pileup.
The driver, Alan Wilder, 27, of Columbia-Tusculum, and a passenger, Joe Carrender, 37, of Monticello, Kentucky, were taken to UC Medical Center with incapacitating injuries. Wilder's daughter was taken to Cincinnati Children's with non-incapacitating injuries.
Later, Wilder was taken to the Justice Center and charged with two counts of OVI plus child endangering, failure to control and driving with a suspended license.
Some 4-1/2 hours earlier, Ryan Drew, 34, of Green Township, crashed into the median barrier near I-74 and was ejected. Police said they found him lying unconscious in the high-speed lane about 5 p.m.
Drew, driving alone, got on I-75 at Mitchell Avenue, Hoffbauer said.
"South 75, the heroin took effect in his body. He lost control. Went to the left side of the roadway, hit the wall, he was ejected out of the car -- not wearing seat belt. The car then continued to the right and then came to rest in the right-hand berm," Hoffbauer said.
"Fortunately, no one else came along and ran over this individual because now that would be something traumatic for that innocent person."
Drew admitted using heroin, and officers found a loaded hypodermic needle and a package of 1.62 grams of heroin in the car, according to the police report. He was taken to the UC Medical Center with non-incapacitating injuries and was still hospitalized as of Thursday.
Drew was charged with two counts of OVI, two counts of drug abuse and failure to control.
Last month, WCPO anchor Craig McKee revealed the dangers Tri-State drivers face from heroin users in a special report, "Heroin on the Highway." The report spotlighted several instances of dangerous, reckless driving on the interstates, drivers passed out with their engines running and fatalities on Tri-State roads this year because of drivers using heroin.
Hoffbauer told McKee the number of OVIs related to heroin use are adding up. At the time, Cincinnati police had made 148 OVI arrests for heroin use in 2015. And those were just the cases they found. WCPO obtained the list of heroin calls for service for Cincinnati, and those calls were up 172 percent over the past three years.
"Sooner or later, they're going to have an accident. Sooner or later they are going to be injured. Unfortunately, statistics are going to show that down the road some innocent person is going to be killed by the actions of someone who puts heroin in their system and drives," Hoffbauer said.
"It's a little frustrating that I think the people who are addicted to this drug can't get a grip on how serious it is and how dangerous it is to be out there with the rest of the public."