Port Clinton wrestler dies in truck crash

PORT CLINTON A 17-year-old Port Clinton student died in a head-on collision Christmas Eve while on h
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



A 17-year-old Port Clinton student died in a head-on collision Christmas Eve while on his way to wrestling practice.

As Jonathan T. Pope lay dead in his truck on Ohio 53, his dad, the high school wrestling coach, awaited his star wrestler's arrival.

Jonathan died instantly upon impact with a dark blue 1999 Dodge Dakota. Troopers said the Dakota, driven by 73-year-old Omer F. Swartz Jr., swerved into the teen's lane while trying to pass a student driver headed south on Ohio 53. Jonathan was driving north at about 9 a.m. when the two trucks intersected.

The impact collapsed the front end of the young man's black 1988 Chevrolet S10. The steering wheel bent into the seat. Broken metal, plastic and other debris scattered on the road.

Covered in a white sheet, Jonathan's body was taken away by Neidecker, LeVeck and Crosser funeral home.

Swartz's truck, emblazoned with Support Our Troops stickers and an American flag, also sustained severe front-end damage. A tire came to rest in a nearby yard.

A medical helicopter took Swartz to St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where he remained in fair condition Thursday afternoon.

The student driver of the car Swartz tried to get past knew Jonathan and was permitted to leave the scene of the crash because of her emotional state, said Trooper Chris Capizzi of the Sandusky post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. He later collected her statement.

Mark Segaard heard the impact of the collision from his home. The trucks came to a rest adjacent to his home in this residential area dotted with farm fields.

"I heard a crunk and a scrap and I called 911," Segaard said. "It was pretty bad."

The force of the collision pushed the trucks 80 feet from the impact point, indicated by groves cut into the asphalt by the power train and engine block of Jonathan's truck.

The crash remains under investigation and no charges have been filed.

Football coach Toby Hammond remembered Jonathan as a great kid who will be sorely missed.

School officials told Hammond about the teen's death and Thursday afternoon he drove to the family's 216 E. Seventh St. home to offer support.

"Right now you're just too shocked to think," he said. "He always had a great smile. He liked to joke."

Hammond coached Jonathan in football and also taught a class in which the boy earned A's.

Just the night before Jonathan and his father, Thomas Pope, celebrated the teen's win of his wrestling match.

"He was a great kid. He worked hard for his coaches. He worked hard in everything he did," said athletic director Carey Clum. "He handled himself like a gentleman should."


Azure Ray

Well, Nicole, it's news. It's the biggest news in the Sandusky area, whether it be sad or happy. Sorry there's nothing about Santa or his elves there.

God bless this family - I can't even imagine going through this on Christmas Eve. He seems like an amazing person.

40 Hour Worker

This is really a shame.

I hope the idiot who caused this accident because he couldn't have a little bit of patience while on the road realizes the tragedy he has brought to this family, and on Christmas too.

Hurry, hurry, hurry. Got to pass, got to pass, got to pass. I hope it was worth it, Omar Swartz.


Tragic...........re-test this oldster.

Ghost Town

Don't be so fast to critize Mr Schwartz. The article doesn't give the information about which direction the vehicles were pushed but it did say the vehicles were pushed 80 feet from point of impact. One of the vehicles had to be going a lot faster then the other to do this since they were both pickups and about the same weight. Perhaps Mr.Pope was late for wrestling practice since his father was waiting for him to show up. What ever the Highway Patrol accident reconstrution team comes up with will never bring back Mr. Pope.


What a tragedy. About thirty-two years ago one of my sister's classmates was killed in a one car accident on Christmas Eve. We found out the next day. There isn't a Christmas that I don't remember, so I can only imagine what it's like for the family.

My thoughts go out to the family, friends and classmates of this young man.

I would also say that I understand the anger at the driver who was at fault in this accident. I would not want to have his life going forward...he will wear this forever.

Yeah, I know I'm going to get "at least he has a life". And he has earned the sentence of living with his mistake.

But this is a tragedy for all involved. This person has a family and loved ones that had no more to do with his fatal error then the family of the young man who lost his life. My thoughts are with them as well.


Prayers to the Pope's and all those who love Jonathon. A great young man who will be missed!


Dear Ghost Town,
You are correct that the article does not share every detail of the accident. Jonathan was the victim of a careless driver who was passing a student driver and hit him head on. Contrary to what is typical, it was not the teenager who was at fault.

Please keep in mind it is not your job to speculate on what happened, we only would ask for your prayers at this time. Our family is forever changed by this tragedy.


Back when I was in high school at Port Clinton HS we lost two classmates in my junior year much in the same way a head on accident. The fall of my senior year another student was killed in an accident as he tried to pass a car on Catawba road and went head on into another car.

Reading about this young man brings back so much of the memories of that tragic time. I am so sorry that the high school students of today at Port Clinton HS again have to grieve in the way we did.

We plan at our Christmas dinner today to include the family and friends of this wonderful young man in our prayers. Would it not be comforting for all who new and loved this young man to know that folks all over the area are including the family in their prayers. This young man will be remembered at our table today for the wonderful life he lived.


My prayers go out to the family of this bright and talented young man. What a horrible loss!!!

I hope the family considerd donating his organs to help save the life of another person. I think it would be comforting to know that part of such a strong young man would live on, in light of such a horrible situation.

God bless all the souls involved!

Wills Mom

Dear Ghost Town,
While you seem to have the time to read and comment on this and probably many articles, perhaps you missed other articles stating that the Dodge (Mr. Schwartz's vehicle) was attempting to pass a vehicle traveling southbound and struck the Chevy (John Pope's) that was northbound head on." and took the life of this innocent young man whom I and my son have had the honor of knowing most of his life. You claim one vehicle had to be going alot faster than the other??? That would normally be the passing vehicle. Charges are pending in this case. Mr. Schwartz is looking at VEHICULAR HOMICIDE, also from the other articles..so the Sandusky Register doesn't have all the facts. In the end, the Jonathan we all loved is gone forever. Letting Will know (my son) was the hardest thing I ever had to do and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Tom, Carolyn, Evan and Nick, I love you all so very much and you know words cannot express what we are feeling!


"As Jonathan T. Pope lay dead in his truck on Ohio 53, his dad, the high school wrestling coach, awaited his star wrestler's arrival"

I can't believe the reporter is insensitive on how she worded this; this sounds terrible!!! Where did the hell did you get your reporter skills?

This is a tragic loss........


To the young man's family - so sorry for your loss. Years ago my friend was killed in similar fashion by an old man. Re- test for safety.


This is so VERY sad. It makes my heart hurt. I am SO sorry for your loss. :`(

columbus avenue

How many have to die before this stupid state passes ANNUAL SENIOR TESTING??????

The state needs money? Here is one way to increase revenue. institue Annual Senior Drivers Exams.
Also, add REQUIRED operators licenses for boaters. That way they will (hopefully) at least know the rules of the road which currently they do not.

columbus avenue

Poor kid. What a horrific story.


mr. pope is a teacher at my son's school. the kids are in disbelief, as am i. i dont know mr. pope personally, but as a parent,my heart bleeds for him and his family.what a horrible,horrible incident.i just want to cry.God bless his family.


oh and sandusky register, as someone who has seen their dead brothers body on your front page, i have to say your reporting and wording of this story leave ALOT to be desired. i dont care"if its news", this is someones baby, brother, nephew,etc..... i know how i felt and its not a good feeling. grow a heart and write as if it was YOUR loved one.

American Freedom

This story is a very tragic one...my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends.

I also must say to the Sandusky register.... Shame on you for allowing this to be printed in the fashion that it was written. A softer style would have been much better. Ms. Topey you might need to re-examine your writing style and maybe have a long talk with your conscience. You shouldn't be going for a Pulitzer with a story like this.

Again my thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends and peers of this child.


The student driver was a he not a she and a statement was taken right after accident by a sheriffs deputy not a trooper. This would of been upsetting to any teenager let alone to one that knew Jonathan. Our prayers are with the Pope family.


I was the student driver and yes i am a male and yes i did give a statement to a deputy on the scene and i also am one of popes friends people have been reading comments saying how seniors should be tested and how the author of this article has no heart wether that is true or not now is not the time to state those things now is the time to keep your prayers up for the pope family and all of his friends
I Love You Jonathan my prayers are with you and your family


To the Pope family:
You do not know me but I felt heartbrokened in reading this article yesterday online. Losing a loved one is never easy and it is especially hard when it is so senseless. My heart goes out to you for the loss of a beautiful young man who had so much to live for in life.
May I offer my prayers and sympathies to not only Jonathan's family but also, to all of his friends.
They say that often the good die young and I firmly believe that God has something special that he needed Jonathan for up in heaven. Always remember all the special happy times you shared and now you have a beautiful angel looking over you and will be waiting to meet you when it is your time to be with God!
God Bless and may your young man rest in peace.
A Mom who cares!


moderators have removed this comment because it contained libelous or defamatory statements.


I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the family of this young man. You do not know me and I do not know you but I have lost a family member in a tragic accident like this and my family and I have felt your pain. Just wanted to let you know my heart and thoughts are with you and your family. God bless you as you move forward.


moderators have removed this comment because it contained libelous or defamatory statements.


To those who criticize the fact that this story made the news: No, it's not happy news. But whether you personally like it or not, it IS news.

To those who criticize the reporter's lack of empathy: You're right, though probably not for the reasons you think you are. Reporters are SUPPOSED to report the facts. To say that the student was a wrestler and his father the wrestling coach is fine. But to word it the way she did in what is apparently a ham-handed attempt to pull at readers' heartstrings is something a WRITER might do, but never, never, NEVER an ethical reporter.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: A young man was killed for no other reason than that another driver was impatient. That's a pretty lousy reason for a pretty serious consequence in my mind. It's no comfort to those who lost a loved one yesterday, but we still all ought to learn something from that fact.

To the Pope family: There's nothing anyone can say or do, I'm sure, to mitigate your loss. Even so, please know that there are many of us -- friends and strangers alike -- who are thinking of you and wishing you comfort and peace.


Hometown I agree poorly,written article!! Horrible choice of words!!! Ms. Topey you owe this family an apology!! Shame on you!!! Sympathy to the family!!! God Bless!!


Such a sad thing especially at Christmas! Even though I don't know any of you.....you are all in my heart and prayers! I am in NO WAY condoning what happened...but I am sure that Mr. Swartz is hurting for the tragedy that has occured...So I am including him in my prayers as well...I do have to agree with a few of you in saying the way the SR put this in the paper is horrible!!! I hope you learn to word your stories better....!


My thoughts and prayers go out to both families during this very difficult time.


To the Pope family, My deepest sympathy to you in this heartbreaking time.
To Ms. Topey, take comfort in the fact that no matter how you might have written this story someone would have criticized you.


I wanted to rip the story in pieces. I thought the story was a joke and Melissa Topey you should be ashamed of yourself wrting crap like this...As Jonathan T. Pope lay dead in his truck on Ohio 53, his dad, the high school wrestling coach, awaited his star wrestler's arrival.....Covered in a white sheet, Jonathan's body was taken away by Neidecker, LeVeck and Crosser funeral home...What if that was your brother,mother,father or any family member I dont think you would print crap like that. Also it is Christmas, yes its a story but you dont have to blow it up, there is no reason to have any pictures posted, dont you think the family is hurt enough without having to see that again. And Westerhold how can you look in the mirror and ok something like this to be ran on a day of Christmas celebration that turned into tragedy for Pope family. My prayers go out to the entire family may God be with you and Jonathen be your guardian angel to watch over you.


This tragic news sickens me for the loss this family has endured at this time, or any time of year for that matter. My prayers are with you. As for the staff of the SR that wrote and allowed the article to be printed in this fashion, you all should be fired. Melissa, the moderators should have removed some of your comments, and also the pictures of his truck. The picture of that youth with a smile would have been just fine. Mr. Phares, you should start a major house cleaning at the SR, and don't stop until you hit the top. I will stop now, because moderators will remove me for what I am thinking.


Reply to: Azure Ray wrote on Dec 25, 2009 7:35 AM:
" Well, Nicole, it's news. It's the biggest news in the Sandusky area, whether it be sad or happy. Sorry there's nothing about Santa or his elves there.

God bless this family - I can't even imagine going through this on Christmas Eve. He seems like an amazing person.

Yes it's news but do you think that family really wants to see the front page of the paper that says Merry Christmas....then after that see pictures of the accident? No, I doubt they do. It's like a big slap in the face.


I cannot believe some of you posting comments are so inconsiderate to this families loss. Tblohm152 you are absolutely correct. Jonathan was a very good friend of mine we had many good times. My condolences go to the family


I have a 14 year old son who can't wait to drive, now I'm scared to let him drive for fear some stupid older driver will would pull something like that. I can't even imagine what this poor family is going through, but I pray for them. I hope whatever judge hears this case puts this "old" man behind bars for rest of his life, he deserves it!


You are so right i am 16 and I don't even want my license


To all that do not like the way this story was written...thats SR for you. It does not matter to them who they hurt in the process of their reporting. Read some of the other stories as well. They have said horrible things about ALOT of people, not to mention the nasty blogs people write...the nastier the better as long as they side with SR they will not delete any of them, although I got deleted one time for simply blogging...."Waaaah". Make sense? We need a new hometown newspaper or atleast CLEAN HOUSE DOWN THERE! They have damaged alot of peoples lives in one way or another with all of their nonsense.


This was the worst news stories I have ever read reporting a tragis death such as this. Did you even read it and think what the family will think. How about just sticking to the facts, not interjecting things such as "as Jonathan lay dead in his truck on Ohio 53,his dad, the high school wrestling coach, awaited his star's arrival." This is terrible. I don't usually agree how the Port Clinton news herald report their news, but they did a much better job on this. You might have thought better abbout the pictures you posted as well. The one of Jonathan's truck with the door hanging open and the steering wheel in the seat show's just how tragically he died, and I am sure no one, especially the family needed to see that specific picture to understand how awful an accident this was. Think next time before writing on such a death.


Where on this planet did Melissa Topey receive her Journalism training...Moron University?? Her unnecessary comments, already referenced numerous times, in addition to the inclusion of the graphic crash photos tell the story that this imbecile has absolutely no idea what she is doing working for a newspaper. She and the idiot who hired her should both be shown the front door. What an unbelieveable lack of class and sensitivity on this story.
My deepest sympathies go out this family on their tragic loss.


RE: shelly.....While at times I don't agree with the journalistic abilities of the SR interns, thier only job is to report the news.

How many times have we watched the shuttle disaster of 1986, and seen images of the senior McCauliffs watch in agony as thier daughter, Christa, perish in a plume of fire?

How many times have the Kennedy children watched thier father murdered in Dallas? How many times do we have to watch the asassination of RFK or Martin Luther King? Twin Towers? Should I go on?

Because it is local.......This isn't supposed to be seen? Pictures and stories go on like this every day, in every form of media. Doesn't matter if it's Christmas Eve, Cristmas Day, or the 21st of August.

I would hope that this story sends a message to the "hurry-up, can't wait to get there" crowd, you may get there sooner than you think.........and take some innocent ones with you.

May the Lord bless this family in thier time of need.


I agree with NineMM, to not show the pictures is to whitewash it. This is reality, this young man died, this is how he died, look at these pictures. This is what can happen. If more pictures like these were shown, maybe people would be more careful while driving. This statement in no way shows disrespect to the Pope family or his friends. This is a tragic loss.


My sympathies to both families in this story. My greatest concern though is for the father, who will forever second-guess his decision to have a practice that day. Please remember that it was not your fault and take comfort in the time that you did have with your son.


To the Pope family, our prayers are with you. It is very difficult to lose a family member well before their time, but try to celebrate his life and treasure all of Jonathan's accomplishments. God must have had special plans for this fine young man.


The reporter on this story obviously has no feelings otherwise she wouldn't have wrote what she wrote. I immediately CANCELLED MY SUBSCRIPTION to the SR because of this TERRIBLE STORY!


My sympathies to the Pope family.
Before everyone bashes the paper think about this, if the story and picures are shocking, then lets learn to be more careful out there. If the story wasn't printed then who would learn from it? If it didn't shock you, you would drive no different than before. Maybe the story and pics will save a life! I know the thought of that picure will make me think twice before passing.


The story is poorly worded, but give the SR a break. It's not like they're getting journalists from Harvard or Columbia or Princeton. They have to hire whoever they can get, and if the writing is awful, they just live with it (as this story shows). To the Pope family, my prayers are with you.


Eleven months ago today my 22 year old son was killed in a similar senseless accident.
For me, the article showed how much the witnesses,friends,and community are devastated by this accident. It showed just how much he was LOVED. May they find some comfort in the pictures as I did with the photos of my sons car, knowing that his passing was quick and likely painless.
Accidents like this are caused by inattentiveness, not age. My son lost his life due to a 53 year old man, not a teen or a senior. Hopefully everyone who sees the pictures will pay closer attention when they are driving and save a few lives that would have been lost otherwise. The Popes have a rough road ahead. I know. I am still on that road.
Remember, hugs heal better than words.
Ryan's mom

Kottage Kat

Vickie and the Pope families,
My heartfelt sympathies, and prayers as you heal. May you know God's comfort.
Hugz for healing.


Melissa Topey should be ashamed of herself. If I was her mother, I would seriously doubt my parenting skills. Report the news, objectively, without your little digs, or don't report it at all. What a worthless, heartless 'reporter'. I hope SR fires you.
Although, with it's track record, it'll probably give you a promotion.


First and foremost, my heart goes out to both families as they try to deal with the difficult situation that they were put in. I pray that God holds you close as you grieve. Finally, as a friend of Ms. Topey, I do not feel this is the time or the place to bash her or her story. She is a person with a heart and would not intentially hurt anyone. I feel that the name calling should stop. That is not what this site is intended for.

The wolf man

this accident sickens me to no end. I understand accidents happen, but this one could have and should have been avoided.This 73 year old man probably should not have been on the road in the first place. Despite his age, i hope justice is served and he is prosecuted to the max.

The wolf man

this may have not been the best reporting or writing job, but it seems your pushing your anger on the reporter when it was the old guy that caused the accident. Push your blame on him, he caused it.If he he had shown a little patience, this whole thing never would have happened


Wolf Man-you are absolutely right, and I agree with you. I just think the 'reporting' was unnecessarily garish and insensitive. There are a thousand other, more tactful and sympathetic ways she could have worded her report, without trying to make a horrible situation worse, is all.

And he most certainly is at fault. His impatience ended a young life way too soon, in a senseless act. Not only will he pay legally, I'm sure, but he'll have to live with this for the rest of his life.

Deepest sympathies to the family.


I've seen plenty of people UNDER the age of 50 do stupid things all the time because they are in a hurry or have their attention on their cell phones/texting, not only behind the wheel of a car. They will not watch where they are going, even when they are just walking. Seen a young mother recently, at the store who was sooo busy talking on her cell phone, she didn't realize that her baby's stroller started rolling away from her down a sloped parking lot.

Oh, and this so called "reporter" should be horsewhipped for writing this idiotic slop, reminds me of the way John Martin's funeral was written up.


From day one the fault has been on the South Bound driver(73 year old). In looking at the passing stripes along this route there are no passing restrictions along 53 at the Oak Harbor SE 17. This should certainly be reconsidered since this sinceless death. Maybe if the man (73 yr old) saw a no passing sign or the solid line he wouldn't have pulled over into the north bound lane and the Pope family would have spent Christmas with their son who was NOT at fault. Starryeyes83 don't attck the young as the facts state that the 73 year old was at fault. It's not an age thing it's the facts. If anything is to be learned it is to slow down and be patient. May God hold the Pope family and the Port Clinton Community in his arms.


It seems some people have overlooked an important point about this story. Unfortunately, that article will be scrap-booked perhaps a thousand times and
re-read by at least one more Pope/Ochs generation, and countless others. This is NOT an issue of blame, or even forgiveness. Its about professionalism and tact, even human compassion. May I suggest that the senior editor take notice for any future situations.


pcredskin: What is your definition of attacking?

I stated facts, okay if you bother to read all of the posts you would read where people have no problem attacking older drivers,{what I was replying to} My dad is in his 70's and he drives better than most people half his age.

FYI: I also have seen people of ALL ages pass on a double yellow line in the middle of the day where it was clearly visible because they were in a hurry, and taking stupid chances. This is a problem with drivers of EVERY age: so what does that tell you? people need to be more careful and NOT be in such a hurry that and the fact the many new drivers are given nice big trucks/suv's they do not know how to handle.


p.s. I'm using generalizations, not specific to this story.


The sad part of this whole tragedy is that it could have been avoided and it serves as a lesson as to what can happen when you get in toobig of a hurry--slow down folks!!!


starry you should check on Florida's current laws regarding seniors & accidents. Not good. Forget exact figures, but if I understood correctly there is a high % of fatalities regarding seniors, accidents & others nationwide. (Heard discourse last week on F.M.)


Not to be disrespectful to the victims or their families or to make light of the tragedy, but Kurt I think if you check stats in almost any state, you will find that young people age range 16-25 have, on average a bit higher % rate of either causing an accident or having one, certainly not taking away from the fact that indeed some senior citizens should not be driving, especially in this day and age when people have lost sight of using common courtesy when behind the wheel of a vehicle.


**upon rereading this article again and yet again, I cant help but wonder how on earth the individual who wrote it ever got a job....even on this newspaper, she'd never make it on a REAL one.


I can't believe this "newspaper" has allowed this travesty of journalism to stay online. I hope the family doesn't wind up reading this garbage. And I hope if something like this happens to this reporter's family (God forbid) I hope someone shows her just as much couth and sensitivity as she has used by utilizing a family's grief and tragedy to, what, further her career? Any newspaper worth the paper it's written on wouldn't tolerate this, and she should be ashamed of herself. She doesn't have a heart, I don't care what anyone thinks.


kURT--thanks for the info I will check those other stats.


Melissa Topey, you need to get a heart, that was just awful what you wrote. It was Christmas that story ran, Jonathan was a great young man, he had a great heart, at 17 years old he had a better heart than you apparently do. I hope the readers stop buying this paper. Readers be ware, it could be your family next, instead of mine. Melissa, is was the nastiest thing I have read on Christmas Eve. No name calling here, you are not worth that!


Melissa Topey, you need to get a heart, that was just awful what you wrote. It was Christmas that story ran, Jonathan was a great young man, he had a great heart, at 17 years old he had a better heart than you apparently do. I hope the readers stop buying this paper. Readers be ware, it could be your family next, instead of mine. Melissa, is was the nastiest thing I have read on Christmas Day. No name calling here, you are not worth that!