Fatal crash report shows texting link

NORWALK Todd Jordan was sending and receiving text messages only moments before the fatal crash that
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010



Todd Jordan was sending and receiving text messages only moments before the fatal crash that wrapped his car around a utility pole.

Although the truth of what happened that night will never be known, phone records, witness accounts and the crash report strongly suggest he was distracted by text messages.

“We can’t say for sure, but the times correlate with the times of the crash, so it is pretty close,” said Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Knoll. “We’re assuming that (texting) had something to do with it.”

The exact time of the Sept. 8 crash is unclear, but it occurred at about 9:50 p.m.

Jordan, 19, of Norwalk was on his way to Sandusky to pick up his mother’s fiancé from work.

Traveling in a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, the high school senior was headed east on Shaw Mill Road, just west of Plank Road.

Coming around a curve, Jordan failed to negotiate the bend, careening across the oncoming-traffic lane and plowing into a pole located at the bottom of a driveway at 14701 Shaw Mill Road. 

Jordan hit the pole so hard it knocked out a power transformer. The electricity at the homes of several neighbors went out immediately.

Scott Goodwin, 57, was watching a movie at home with his wife, Kathy, with the front door open when he heard tires screech and a loud bang. Then his lights went out.

Goodwin grabbed a flashlight from the closet in the kitchen and looked at a clock, which read 9:50 p.m. He doesn’t know for sure what time it actually was because the clock is always a few minutes fast or a few minutes slow. 

Racing outside, Goodwin saw the car and a young man at the driver’s side window, yelling into the car, “Stay with me, stay with me.”

Goodwin said the young man told him he was calling 911.

The young man’s name is Zach Garton. The 23-year-old Norwalk resident was on his way to work at Kalahari when he came around a curve and saw Jordan’s car.

Climbing out of his truck, Garton checked inside the wrecked car and found Jordan, bloody and disoriented.

“He was moaning,” Garton said.

Hoping to keep him conscious and to keep panic from setting in, Garton said he kept Jordan talking by asking him basic questions, but Jordan had trouble answering them.

“He told me he wanted his mom,” Garton said. “I told him he had to stay with me, but he said he can’t. His final words to me were he wanted his mom, which choked me up pretty bad.”

Authorities arrived on scene at 10:06 p.m., extricated Jordan using mechanical tools and took him to the hospital. Jordan was pronounced dead at Fisher-Titus Medical Center at 11:46 p.m.

Jordan’s mother, Diana Jordan, said her son read text messages while driving but never sent them. She also previously said she thought Jordan hadn’t sent a message that night since 9:32 p.m., long before he left home.

But the crash report suggests the texting didn’t end there.

From 9:37 p.m. to 9:47 p.m., Jordan sent and received messages from three teenage female callers, the report states.

His last message was sent at 9:47 p.m. and read, “I love you.”

It was sent to a girl with whom he exchanged 10 messages in a 5-minute time period, beginning at 9:42 p.m., the report shows.

After he sent his last text, three incoming messages arrived on his phone at 9:47 p.m. Two more then arrived at 9:51 p.m. and 9:52 p.m.

He did not answer them or, possibly, finish answering them.

Garton and Goodwin are not positive what time the crash occurred.

But if their timelines are accurate, the crash occurred sometime between 9:47 p.m. and 9:50 p.m.

Diana Jordan said the findings of the report cements her position that inattentive driving due to texting was responsible for her son’s death.

“I assume this whole thing was because of a text message — whether it was outgoing or incoming, I don’t know,” Diana Jordan said. “I know he didn’t text very often when he was driving, but that night he must have been in the middle of something and decided to keep going. Wow, it just really surprises me he was doing that because he knows better. ... If he was texting at 9:47 then he was texting while driving because three minutes later he hit a pole.”

Jordan has plans to speak to area youth about the dangers of distracted driving and the pain and crushing loss it can cause. She wants her son’s death to be instructive of the perils involved with not paying attention to the road.  

Sgt. Knoll said text messaging is just one of many ill-conceived activities of which motorists often partake.

Other risky behind-the-wheel behaviors include reading maps, applying makeup, shaving, smoking cigarettes, selecting songs on an iTunes player and even eating.

“Anything that takes your attention away from driving is tough,” Knoll said.