LISBON -A Hanoverton-area woman has been indicted for allegedly causing a Jan. 19 traffic accident that left three people dead and six others injured.
Rachael K. Lindesmith, 31, of Lindesmith Road, was served Friday with a secret indictment issued by the Columbiana County grand jury charging her with three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and five counts of aggravated vehicular assault.
The charges carry a maximum possible combined sentence of 22-1/2 years in prison if convicted.
The traffic accident occurred just west of Gavers on state Route 518 when a Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by Lindesmith reportedly crossed the center line on the two-lane road, striking head-on a Chevrolet Equinox driven by James Nign, 39, of Calcutta.
The accident claimed the life of Nign, his wife, Meghann, 27, and a passenger, 11-year-old Addisyn Benzel of Minerva, who was ejected from the cargo hold area of the SUV where she was riding.
There were six other people in the Equinox: McKenna Nign, 11; McKayla Howard, 11; Savannah Nign, 6; Chayse Nign, 4; Brody Nign, 2; and Payslee Nign, 9 months old. The aggravated vehicular assault charges against Lindesmith apply to all of those passengers, except for Howard. No charge was issued in regard to her.
All were taken to area hospitals with varying degrees of injuries, as was Lindesmith and her 9-month-old son.
The indictment only says that in the course of operating her SUV Lindesmith "recklessly" caused the fatalities and injuries. Chief Assistant County Prosecutor John Gamble said he was not at liberty to comment further on the facts behind the indictment.
"It wouldn't be appropriate to discuss the facts in the case until the defendant is arraigned and presented with a copy of the indictment," he said.
Neither the Nigns nor four of their seven children passengers were wearing seat belts or otherwise restrained. This included Benzel and two other children riding in the cargo area and another child who was sitting on Mrs. Nign's lap.
Lindesmith was wearing a seatbelt and her son was in a car seat.
The accident has drawn the attention of state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, who introduced a bill that would allow police to pull over a vehicle if they see a child passenger is not wearing a seat belt or in a car seat.
While current law requires children under the age of 15 to wear a seat belt or be in a car seat, it is a secondary offense, which means the driver can only be cited for a seat belt violation if pulled over for committing a primary traffic offense, such as speeding.
Schiavoni's bill would make it a primary offense for anyone under the age of 15 to ride in a vehicle without being restrained, allowing police to pull over drivers if they see a child is not wearing a seat belt or in a car seat.
Lt. Joseph Dragovich has said there is a possibility the victims in this crash might have survived had they been secured by a seat belt.