Crash sends deputy to hospital

LISBON – A Columbiana County sheriff’s deputy is out of the hospital and recovering after his cruiser was struck by an alleged drunk driver early Sunday on Market Street.

Sheriff Ray Stone said Deputy Willie Coleman was only about 18 minutes into his regular midnight shift and on his way to a serious call when the crash happened.

“He had his lights on right in front of EOC (the women’s state prison) there on Market. I was told the driver of that vehicle was a DUI. A .20 (BAC, blood alcohol content) was what I was told,” the sheriff said.

A BAC of .08 is considered legally drunk.

Lisbon Police Chief Mike Abraham said Coleman was behind a truck and both vehicles were southbound on Market Street when the deputy attempted to pass with his lights and sirens on to get to a call. The truck turned east onto High Street and struck the cruiser.

The impact caused the cruiser to go off the road into the corner of a brick home nearby, damaging the home, the yard and a wooden fence at the edge of the house. The home is inscribed with a plaque identifying the original owner as James Starr. It was built in 1820.

The truck driver was identified as Clint Lepowsky, 42, Steubenville Pike, Lisbon, and given a field sobriety test by a Highway patrol trooper at the scene, Abraham said.

“After the field sobriety test we determined he was under the influence of alcohol and he was taken to the highway patrol for a breath test, which he refused,” he added.

Lepowsky was charged with OVI and released and additional charges are pending results of the investigation, the chief said.

The police department is still waiting to speak with Coleman to gather more details, and the patrol is also investigating. The patrol’s accident reconstruction specialist, Todd Jester, was also at the scene.

Stone was called to the scene when it was apparent Coleman was injured. After cleaning out the cruiser and removing the guns inside, the sheriff went to the hospital to check on the deputy.

Coleman was taken to Salem Community Hospital by KLG Ambulance and given an X-ray and CAT scan.

Stone said he left the hospital after the tests and although he did not speak with Coleman on Sunday checked on his condition with a sheriff’s dispatcher who was in contact with him.

“He is home. I don’t think (he had) any broken bones, just stiff and sore neck and back is what I was told,” he said.

When asked when Coleman will return to work, Stone said he didn’t know yet, but that a doctor’s approval would be required.

Whether the cruiser he was driving early Sunday will be put out of service will depend on how many miles it has, he added.

“I looked at the front end and it looked pretty bad. It’s probably totaled … the car was actually wrapped around the house a bit,” he said.

The sheriff’s office has about 31 cruisers in its fleet, he added.