PDT Staff Writer
The Ohio State Highway Patrol Friday released information regarding a Sept. 28 accident in Gallia County that claimed the lives of two state troopers and one woman. According to the report, one trooper was driving under the influence of alcohol.
According to the OSHP, Trooper Joshua Risner, 29, a Portsmouth native, was driving his 2005 Ford Crown Victoria between 60 and 70 mph, eastbound on Jackson Pike at about 5:50 a.m., with emergency lights and sirens activated, and Sgt. Dale Holcomb, 45, in the passengers seat. The vehicle spun out of control into the westbound lane and struck a 2004 Chevrolet Silverado, being driven by Lori Smith, 32, of Vinton.
A resulting fire from the crash significantly burned both vehicles. The cause of this fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshal and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
All three people were killed in the crash.
An early blood-alcohol test performed on Risner with blood taken from the jugular vein, returned a blood-alcohol concentration of .000 (BAC).
“The jugular is near the skin, and obviously the fire could hinder the test,” said Lt. Tony Bradshaw of the OSHP.
However, a second test conducted during the autopsy, using blood from the body's deep cavity area, returned a .08 BAC.
“The deep cavity test is done in the chest area,” Bradshaw said.
Risner worked in Gallipolis with Sgt. J. R. Howard, who now serves at the Scioto County office of the OSHP.
Howard said Risner never exhibited behavior that would lead anyone to suspect he might be capable of something like this, and expressed confusion, as to how two different blood tests could return such very different levels.
“Blood is blood is blood,” said Howard. “It doesn't matter where you take it, you should get the same results.”
Smith's test returned no alcohol in her system, but blood tests did reveal marijuana metabolites present, below the legal limit in Ohio. Holcomb's blood results tested negative.
The OSHP has launched a separate investigation to determine when and where Risner could have ingested alcohol.
“We will be looking into where and when the alcohol consumption happened,” Bradshaw said. “Was it during his shift, prior to going on duty, or the day before?”
Investigators say that radio traffic does not indicate why or where the officers were heading. Timelines of radio traffic from other officers lead them to believe they were en route to the hospital, after hearing of another officer transporting his non-responsive infant son in his cruiser to the hospital.
Bradshaw was quick to add the investigation is on-going.
“Our next step, obviously, is to complete the crash investigation itself. Absolutely. We don't want to close the book on this inquiry, until we answer any questions anyone may have,” he said.
FRANK LEWIS contributed to this story. RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 235.