Teen Driver in River Bend Crash Charged with Vehicular Assault

2 cars were speeding when crash happened near high school in April, police say.

The teenage driver of a car that crashed and rolled several times has been charged with aggravated vehicular assault.

Janel England, 17, of Ravenna, was charged today for an April crash that sent one of her passengers via medical helicopter to an area hospital with serious injuries.

The Portage County Prosecutor's Office recommended England be charged with aggravated vehicular assault, a fourth-degree felony, and reckless operation and speeding, both of which are minor misdemeanors.

Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said his office recommended the felony aggravated vehicular assault charge because England's driving recklessly caused serious physical harm.

The maximum sentence, if she is found guilty, is detention for as little as six months or up to her 21st birthday, Vigluicci said.

Report Details Crash

England was speeding in a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta while trying to pass a 1996 Dodge Ram pick-up truck on the tree-lined neighborhood street when the car hit the concrete curb of a landscape island, rolled several times and struck a tree, a  accident report said.

England and her two passengers, all of whom were juniors at , were injured, but Eva Toppen, the back-seat passenger, was ejected from the car during the rollover. Becca Kluge, England's other passenger, had to be flown by helicopter to Akron City Hospital. All three girls have since largely recovered from their injuries.

Both England and the truck's driver, Austin M. Mastroine, of Kent, had made the right-hand turn at the stop sign where Beechwold Drive intersects with River Bend Boulevard moments before the crash.

England tried to pass the truck because it was driving slowly, the report said. England accelerated and drove left of center to pass the truck. At the same time, Mastroine hit the accelerator, the report said.

At this point, both cars were approaching the first of three landscape islands in the middle of River Bend Boulevard.

England "attempted to merge back into the westbound lane between the first and second island when (the car) struck the curb of the second island near Rustic Bridge Drive," the report said.

That's when the car rolled several times and Toppen was ejected.

Mastroine drove away from the accident without stopping, police said.

Drag racing?

Almost immediately after the crash, rumors started swirling as to whether teens racing each other is common in the River Bend neighborhood, which is just across the street from the high school.

Some residents have said it is, while some say it is not. Others preferred not to talk about it and declined to comment when reached by Kent Patch. One resident, who asked not to be identified, said the April crash was the first such incident she had seen.

Kent Police Capt. Paul Canfield said the department has had speeding complaints in the neighborhood but nothing like the April crash.

He said the rollover wasn't necessarily the result of a drag race or any other kind of horseplay.

"It’s possible," Canfield said. "But the other person driving slowly, and then her choosing to go on the wrong side of the street and drive at that speed, the culpability is all on her for that.

"I’ve heard of speeding complaints over the years, but not necessarily related to any specific age group," he said. "The behavior from this crash was a little bit beyond just speeding."

The police department is keeping a closer eye on the neighborhood, and that means drivers may see the city's speed enforcement radar trailer on River Bend Boulevard sporadically, or they may just see cop cars patrolling the area more frequently.

'Life is fragile'

Almost miraculously, all three girls involved in the rollover crash recovered.

All three, who will be seniors this coming school year, also were able to attend Roosevelt's prom about a month after the crash.

Kent City Schools Superintendent Joseph Giancola said he and two other students tried at the end of the school year to send the message to students that life is precious.

Giancola spoke to seniors at commencement ceremonies in June along with Ryan Anderson, a 2012 graduate , and Shawnee Hamilton, whose brother Adam in May 2011 was killed in Afghanistan. The title of the presentation was "Life is Fragile."

"One of the messages the seniors heard … was that our belief is life is very fragile," Giancola said. "Young people need to realize their life is as fragile as any age person."

Giancola said the crash could become one of the topics included in upcoming orientations at the start of the school year for classes at Theodore Roosevelt. In the year's final issue of The Colonel, the high school newspaper, Giancola also discussed the crash in an open letter to students.

"It certainly applies to driving, but it also applies to a lot of areas in life," he said. "Teenagers need to understand how fragile a balance we all live in."

Canfield said he hopes that at least the friends of the three students involved in the crash will realize such actions have potentially harmful consequences.

"Messing with what essentially can be a 2,000 pound or 4,000 pound weapon is not a joking or laughing matter," he said. “It’s not something to be taken lightly."

Editor's note: the name of the passenger transported via medical helicopter has been corrected in this story.

Pad Womack July 06, 2012 at 08:33 PM
It was absolutely her fault as much as it was the driver of the truck. She made a stupid decision to try and pass and he made a stupid decision to speed up to prevent that. That being said I think enough lives have been ruined by this and I believe that it is wholly unjust that she is being charged as solely responsible while the driver of the truck has not been charged for his part or for leaving the scene of a terrible accident. Children do stupid things and it is our job as adults to help them learn from the mistakes that they made but I still fail to see how robbing Ms. England of her future is going to do anything other than make sure that her life is laid waste to. Cite her, fine her, pull her DL, send her to traffic school and pile on the community service. Make her go to the schools in Portage County and speak to their student bodies on the hazards of driving and why one should always be mindful of the decisions they make. She more than anyone right now is in a position to speak and not only learn from her mistake but to make sure others do as well. Incarceration is not a solution in this case for either party. There are other more productive steps that can be taken to make sure these children learn from this very tragic mistake because that is what this was a tragic mistake, not a premeditated attempt to harm others. culpae poenae par esto
Mainstreet July 06, 2012 at 09:03 PM
TM July 06, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Very well said Pad! Now, had you said that in your first post, I would not have reacted the way I did :) Both driver's of both cars need to be held accountable. They are so very fortunate that someone did not lose their life in this silly game of "Cat and Mouse" that has been said to have been going on. What a perfect time for us as parents to reflect on what lessons and tools we are giving our children to succeed in their future. maybe we need to be a bit more diligent in makeing sure we stress the point that with great freedom comes great responsibility... especially behind the wheel of a car.
The Omnipotent Sponge - Soak it up! July 06, 2012 at 09:22 PM
"Mastroine drove away from the scene without stopping, according to police." Legal or illegal, it shows a lot about his character that he would choose to drive away.
Just me July 06, 2012 at 11:05 PM
The reporter needs to check and double check their facts. Eva Toppen was not life flighted, another passenger was.
Paul July 06, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Doesn't it say Janel England of RAVENNA, Ohio?? How can she be one of the wealthiest families in Kent if she lives in Ravenna. Speak slowly cause I am a little slow.
Randy McFarland July 07, 2012 at 01:12 PM
The only thing the other driver did wrong was speed up, if you can accurately figure out if he was speeding(remember law,resonable doubt) then you could give him a speeding ticket, or maybe wreckless op if it was fast enough. There was only one vehicle in the accident ppl! The othe guy in the truck is irrelevant.
Teresa K. July 07, 2012 at 01:12 PM
@paul: maybe there is some info missing from this article. i just dont see how anyone but the driver of the rollover car is responsible. it doesnt matter how rich or anyones name.... the girl was to be in control of her vehicle. what was her big hurry anyway that day? from the article: "It’s possible," Canfield said. "But the other person driving slowly, and then her choosing to go on the wrong side of the street and drive at that speed, the culpability is all on her for that." choices... we make them every day, some good some bad. She made a bad choice. I'm sure she is sorry for it every day. I'm sure she will grow from the experience and go on to do great things. She is so blessed that she and her friends are alive today.
Randy McFarland July 07, 2012 at 01:19 PM
He (driver of the truck) was not a "part" of the accident! At best he was a witness. He is aloud to leave. How much property damage did he do? How much damage was done to his truck. She made a stupid mistake ppl and she has to live with it. Really, if you know this development then you know she was on the other side of the road completely as they (lanes) are separated by a median with landscaping. Its not hard to find who is at fault here.
Randy McFarland July 07, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Nothing missing from the story Teresa, she made a bad decision that had unfortunate consequences. Nothing wrong with that, we live and learn right? And right at the end of your comment is what it all boils down to. She should be happy this did not cost her and her friends their lives, i know i am and i dont know any of them.
Tom Tucker July 07, 2012 at 01:51 PM
"It's legal to speed up when someone is passing you?" Yes, it is (of course, to a point, but that speed needs to be proven). The person passing you is the one that failed to use caution. The fault falls SOLELY on the passer.
Tom Tucker July 07, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Pad, You need to get a clue. First, you can start by learning basic traffic laws (and God help us if you are driving). So what if the driver of the truck was speeding up? The person PASSING is the one at fault. Funny how people like you, who clearly don't have a clue, are trying to put some of the fault on to the person who was not doing the passing. Secondly, this person was not involved in the accident, per se. Mastroine was not hit. Should he have stopped? Yes. Can he be charged with leaving the scene of an accident he was not technically involved in since he was not hit? I highly doubt it.
Tom Tucker July 07, 2012 at 01:55 PM
You should practice what you preach, Jessica on the whole "not accusing people." What connection do you have with this family? This accident was caused by ONE PERSON and ONE PERSON ONLY!
Tom Tucker July 07, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Paul, Leaving the scene of an accident has no merit here.
Tom Tucker July 07, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Spot on, Randy. Nice to see someone else around here who knows basic traffic laws. Unlike the others (I've ripped into)
Marybeth Lillick July 07, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Paul, Get your facts straight, you are referencing names that you know nothing about! Lillick and Lillich the Safety Director are unrelated!
Pad Womack July 07, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Tom, Here is some basic traffic law for you. ORC 4511.27 Overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction. Section A (2) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the operator of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle at the latter’s audible signal, and the operator shall not increase the speed of the operator’s vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.
Matt Fredmonsky July 07, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Comments were removed for violating Patch's terms of use. http://kent.patch.com/terms
Teresa K. July 08, 2012 at 04:56 PM
@PAD: I'm sure the girl would love for you to organize a defense fund. She will be needing a new car, too. You could probably look her phone number and address up on the internet if you want to give her some money. @PAD: what do YOU think should be done to the girl? consequence wise?
TM July 08, 2012 at 10:28 PM
The driver of the red truck contributed to the accident by trying to speed up to not allow the girls to pass. Both cars were traveling at an obscene rate of speed at the time of the accident. The truck WAS part of the accident as his not permitting the girls to pass contributed to the girls losing control of the car. He then FLED the scene once he saw what had happened as a result of their horseplay. BOTH drivers need to be reprimanded. (as well as the passengers if they were encouraging the play)
Paul July 08, 2012 at 11:04 PM
I only hope that if you or a loved one is in a serious accident the other person doesn't leave the scene. But according to you if it is you or a loved one in an accident you would be just fine with them leaving. Karma always comes back! Be careful what curb you step off of.
concernedkentmom July 09, 2012 at 12:06 AM
THESE ARE THE FACTS NOT ASSUMPTIONS: At 2:25,afterschool a Blk Audi & Blk VW, (owned by 2 girls, juniors at Kent H.S.)were trying speed pass the red truck owned by Mastroine (ON THE WAY INTO THE DEVELOPMENT)Mastroine wouldn't let them speed by, he continued to drive very slow.(ON THE WAY OUT OF THE DEVELOPMENT @ 2:40, 15 MINS. LATER)The red truck left for practice turning R onto RIvrbnd off of Beechwld going the speed limit 25 MPH. The driver of the blk VW owned a junior girl, saw his red truck going heading towards the bridge on RIverbend Blvd. The junior girl driving the blk VW chose to break the law several times, she saw the truck and drove at excessive speed to try to catch up to it, reports say she wanted to get in front of him to slam her breaks on, since he wouldn't them pass, and was driving too slow entering the allotment. When making her right hand turn off Bchld onto RiverBend,@ that time the red truck was half mile ahead of her heading over the bridge. The driver of the blk VW tried to catch up to the red truck, driving at a high rate of speed, ended up in the wrong lane, almost hit a jimmy johns delivery truck, & crashed while missing it &hit curb and rolled her car. While our elementary kids walked home from school. Mastroine driver of the red truck wasn't indirectly/directly involved the accident, didn't flee the accident, most people drive facing forward not looking in their rear view mirrors. Once over the bridge you can't on the other side.
Z July 09, 2012 at 01:08 AM
So concerned.... U must have been in the red truck or the BLUE vw to know ALL the FACTS of the entire incident. This comment section is a joke.
TM July 09, 2012 at 01:08 AM
The driver of the red truck needs to apologize at the very least for not stopping or calling for help! The crash was heard at the high school because the sound was so loud. The game was him not letting them pass and them trying to pass. For goodness sakes... and by the way, it is not even close to half a mile... Bottom line, ALL the kids were involved and ALL the kids need to take responsibility. I am very glad you are a concerned mom, but please try not to be naive.
Pad Womack July 09, 2012 at 02:56 AM
@concernedkentmom That is not a factual statement regardless of how many times you post it. It's at best conjecture and the large majority of your post is in contradiction to the official reports of what transpired.
Elle July 09, 2012 at 03:41 AM
I think that unless you were in the either the Volkswagen or the Dodge you can not say whether the story you have been recounting is one hundred percent authentic or not. And, honestly, if you weren't in one of the two cars I don't see why it matters. All of you are going to forget about this in a few months, maybe a year at the most. After that it'll just be a vague story that you once heard about that upset you but other than that had no effect on your life. So let's let those who it did affect be and give them some peace after something so traumatic. And as a closing thought, neither party has stated that they aren't taking responsibility for their actions. So unless you have spoken to either the boy or the girl and found that they express no remorse for the matter, I would ask that you keep any negative comments about their punishment to yourself because your opinion doesn't matter one way or another. Just be happy that you weren't affected. You could have been but you weren't. That should be enough.
TM July 09, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Everyone in the community is affected by this. Our children are affected by this. I hope it is not forgotten in a couple of months. Let this be a lesson to new and upcoming drivers how one second of horseplay can yield a horrific result. Turn it into a positive learning moment. Have conversations with your kids about it and then have the conversation again, and again. I hope we never forget. I hope that in the future, all the kids involved can share their experience with the rest their peers to help make sure that this type of thing does not happen again.
Matt Fredmonsky July 09, 2012 at 01:01 PM
A comment was removed for violating Patch's Terms of Use. http://kent.patch.com/terms
Matt Fredmonsky July 09, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Patch is closing this comment thread due to unfounded allegations and personal attacks that have persisted despite moderation. Thank you.


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