Two men died Sunday morning in a fiery crash when their pickup veered off the road and slammed into a tree before ricocheting into a house at East Perkins and Remington avenues.
The passenger, Bradley Vickery, 30, of Bellevue, was pronounced dead at Firelands Regional Medical Center shortly after the wreck.
The driver, an Erie County man, died at the scene. His body was so badly burned that authorities have yet to confirm his identity. He was taken to Lucas County for an autopsy where coroners are waiting for dental records.
Neither man was wearing a seat belt and it's still unknown if alcohol or drugs were a factor, Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers said.
Both bodies were taken to the Lucas County coroner's office for autopsies. The coroner plans to identify the driver by inspecting his dental records.
“By tomorrow afternoon, we should have some positive ID,” Erie County coroner Brian Baxter said.
Six people who were sleeping inside the home when the pickup smashed through it are all safe, said Candy Blanton, who is related to the home's occupants.
The six, including two children, narrowly escaped disaster — the truck sparked a massive fire when it slammed into an exterior wall, Blanton said.
The 1997 Ford F-150 was headed west on Perkins Avenue at about 3:30 a.m. when it went off the right side of the road and struck a tree in a yard. The collision with the tree ejected both men from the truck, Highway Patrol troopers said. The truck then spun around and smashed into the house, triggering a fire.
The tree no doubt took the brunt of the blow from the truck, keeping it from from tearing completely into the house, Blanton said.
Sandusky firefighters arrived within minutes, finding the truck fully engulfed and the outside of the house burning as well. By then, the six people in the home had escaped and were waiting in a mini-van parked nearby.
Crews had the fire under control by 3:57 a.m., firefighters said.
Bystanders had pulled Vickery away from the crash scene. After firefighters snuffed the blaze, they found the driver's badly burned body lying between the vehicle and the house.
The home sustained about $10,000 in damage from fire and smoke, firefighters said.
At about 11 a.m. Sunday, Blanton was snapping pictures inside and outside the home, documenting her family’s losses for insurance purposes.
What was salvaged, however, were six innocent lives, Blanton said.
“We’re very lucky,” said Blanton, whose mother Vickie is the home’s main tenant. “It’ a horrible accident. I feel terrible.”
Blanton said her six relatives are now staying in a hotel courtesy of the American Red Cross.
Neighbor Charles Pfefferkorn called 911 Sunday morning to report the crash. He said he noticed the carnage from across the street when he woke up to use the bathroom.
“All of a sudden, I see some sparks and flames come up,” he said. “Then the first started getting real big. It was a hell of a scene.”
Remnants from the pickup, including parts of the dashboard, were still strewn about East Perkins Avenue late Sunday.
Some pieces, including tire rubber, flew several hundred feet in the air before landing in neighbors' yards and driveways.
“It’s beyond belief,” said neighbor James Beal, who lives one house west of the crash scene.
Vickery, a 2000 Bellevue High School graduate, was revered by his peers. Students rewarded him with a superlative for having “the prettiest eyes” in the entire class.
But it was his personality that attracted so many people to him, classmate Andrea Sommers said.
“He was one of the nicest guys I know,” Sommers said. “He was never in trouble and just a really good guy.”