St. Henry, OH- Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey reported this morning that deputies are investigating the seventh fatal traffic crash of 2012 in Mercer County. This crash resulted in 2 fatalities bringing the total deaths due to crashes to 12.
At 2:42 am on Saturday, July 14, Mercer County Central Dispatch received a call of an erratic driver driving at a high rate of speed southbound on US 127, south of SR 219, it is believed this may be the same vehicle. The vehicle in the crash had been stopped by a Coldwater PD unit, given a warning for failure to drive in the correct lanes of travel, just prior to the 2:42 am call. At 2:58 am a 9-1-1 call was received reporting a crash at SR 119 and Fleetfoot Road.
The investigation revealed that Ryan J. Billenstein, age 27, 560 South Second Street, Coldwater was driving a 2006 Pontiac GTO westbound on SR 119 at what appeared to be a high rate of speed. The vehicle went out of control and travelled off the south side of the roadway striking two trees before coming to rest. The vehicle then burst into flames.
Billenstein and front seat passenger, Bethany Marie Wentworth, age 21, Naomi Drive, Greenville, were transported by St. Henry EMS to Mercer Health in Coldwater. Left side rear seat passenger, Vincent Anthony Gragorace, age 21, Nottingham Place, Greenville was trapped in the vehicle. Right side rear passenger, Craig A. Gengler, age 22, 327 Anthony St, Celina, was removed from the vehicle by Billenstein. Gragorace and Gengler were pronounced dead at the scene.
At this time it is unknown if the occupants were wearing safety belts or if the air bags deployed as the car was totally destroyed by the fire. The investigation is continuing.
Deputies were assisted at the scene by St. Henry Fire Department, St. Henry EMS, the Mercer County Emergency Response Volunteers, and Matt Fox from the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office.