An automobile crashed into a house or building in Dayton about once per week from January 2012 to May 2013 — 75 crashes in 17 months — and those are just in the city of Dayton. Dozens more such accidents have happened in the multi-county area, but few organizations track the phenomenon and officials don’t have many answers why.
Jeffrey Payne, interim fire chief of the Dayton Fire Department, said he doesn’t know why so many cars run into homes and businesses. But they happen often enough that the department has its own code — AUTOHSE — on internal documentation.
“We respond and try to remedy the situation we find,” Payne said. “We try and make sure there’s no injuries and try to make sure there’s no serious damage to the structure that could be a hazard.”
In Dayton, nine of the crashes involved automobiles running into businesses, six involved leaking gas or fuel and at least three included people fleeing from law enforcement. One crash resulted in a death on April 23 when 52-year-old Gary Childress of Huber Heights died when his vehicle hit a utility pole and crashed into an unoccupied home on Dayton’s Xenia Avenue. The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office has not yet received Childress’ toxicology report, which it needs to complete the autopsy report.
“That was about as unusual of a car into a house as I’ve seen,” Payne said. “I’ve never seen anyone go airborne like that and go sideways into a house and just lodge there.”
Det. Jonathan Seiter of the Dayton Police Department said they don’t track the statistic. “They come in droves,” he said. “If you get one, you usually get another one shortly thereafter.”
The reasons for such crashes are varied, but include drivers being intoxicated or tired, those trying get away from law enforcement, people with medical conditions, driver error and those swerving to avoid hitting something else.
A NewsCenter 7 story last fall investigating the phenomenon show that, in Dayton, the houses hit are usually in old neighborhoods where buildings are closer to the street. But that doesn’t explain all such incidents in Springfield, Miamisburg, Beavercreek, Huber Heights, Miami Twp., Centerville and other jurisdictions. In just 2013 alone, an unofficial count of automobile-structure accidents in the WHIO-TV viewing area has surpassed 50 and many of those include cars hitting businesses.
The Walmart in Englewood was hit, as was the Key Mobility building in Xenia, a Taco Bell in West Chester Twp. and the Klosterman’s bakery building and Jeff Wyler’s Auto Mall in Springfield. Most sustained only minor damage, but a crashing into Centerville’s Savona Restaurant at 79 W. Main St. on March 14 caused a three-month closing of the restaurant, which has reopened under another name.
In the case of Savona, the restaurant’s owner said the 13 employees were paid while the restaurant was closed because Savona’s insurance policy provides that type of coverage.
Beavercreek’s Carmen Smith got a call that her neighbor had run into his own house and her condominium in February on Straight Arrow Road.
“The first panic is like how much damage? Is my garage OK? Can I go back in my home? What am I going to do?” Smith said. “It’s a little bit scary.”
Karri Kelley, who moved from her Springfield home on West Possum Road before a drunk driver crashed into her and her husband’s old living room in February, saw the damage from a picture her husband sent when he saw the home: “It was worse than I could have imagined.”
Last month in Dayton, a man who was about to be pulled over on a traffic stop as part of a beefed-up enforcement escaped arrest when he ran off after crashing his Dodge Magnum station wagon into a house near Baywood Street and Glenbrook Drive.
Spokesman Mitch Wilson of the Ohio Insurance Institute said such occurrences are not tracked at his state organization and that national insurance organizations. “I searched for any statistics or any information,” Wilson said. “I’m not seeing any type of information at all on that.”
Wilson said that, in general, if a driver runs into a house, the driver’s insurance is likely responsible for the damage, but if the driver is uninsured or under-insured, that may fall to the homeowner’s policy.
As for the crash that killed Childress, investigators are still trying to determine what caused him to launch his car airborne into an unoccupied house at 633 Xenia Ave. “We’re still waiting on the toxicology and the autopsy,” Det. Seiter said. “We wait until we get everything.”
Cars into buildings
Possible reasons cars crashing into homes and other buildings are varied, including:
- Drivers trying to elude police
- Intoxicated or fatigured drivers
- Drivers with medical conditions
- Drivers speeding
- Hazardous road conditions
- Drivers mistaking the gas for the brake
- Drivers swerving to avoid hitting something else
INTERACTIVE MAP: Has a vehicle struck a house or building near you or a favorite Dayton spot? Check out instances since January 2012 at MyDaytonDailyNews.com.