Seven motorcyclists have died in unrelated crashes since May 1 in Stark and Summit counties, prompting the Ohio Highway Patrol to lend air support to authorities in those counties.
Lt. Leo T. Shirkey of the patrol’s Canton post, which covers both counties, said the patrol is ramping up use of its aviation division.
“Twice in the last five days, the Patrol’s fixed-wing aircraft stationed out of the Akron-Fulton Airport has been utilized to track and assist in the apprehension of fleeing motorcyclists,” he said, noting that “It’s that time of year. The motorcycles are out.”
Shirkey said that of the seven fatal crashes, the main contributing factors were unsafe speed and reckless driving.
The first fatal crash of the season happened May 1 and five of the seven have occurred since July 11. Two fatal crashes were in Stark County and the remaining five were in Summit, Shirkey said.
In an attempt to deter motorcycle fatalities, authorities are using enforcement from above.
On Friday, troopers, Stark County Sheriff’s deputies and Canton police conducting a joint enforcement operation on U.S. Route 30 in Canton spotted a group of motorcyclists clocked at 80 mph in a 60 mph zone, Shirkey said.
“As the pilot notified officers on the ground, one of the cyclists failed to stop and engaged officers in a pursuit,” he said.
Authorities determined the chase was growing too dangerous to continue.
“Our goal is not to put anybody else in danger,” Shirkey said, adding that officers in the chase on the highway stopped “due to reckless operation of the cyclist.”
Officers by air continued on.
Deputies found the motorcycle.
“He flipped down some side streets and left his bike,” said Major C.J. Stantz of the Stark County Sheriff’s Department.
Deputies seized the bike and began an investigation, which was continuing Wednesday. Stantz said deputies expect to make an arrest soon.
On Tuesday, troopers working a joint enforcement operation with Summit County Sheriff’s deputies and Akron police on Interstate-277 clocked a cyclist at 90 mph in “a post 60 mph zone,” Shirkey said.
“The pursuit was again terminated by the officers due to the reckless driving of the motorcyclist, but was again tracked from the sky by aviation,” he said.
A 27-year-old Akron man was followed to another Akron residence, where he was arrested on charges driving under suspension, felony fleeing and eluding, speeding, fictitious registration, driving under an FRA suspension. Authorities seized his 1999 Kawasaki motorcycle.
“The Ohio State Patrol will continue to utilize its Aviation Division to assist in the tracking and apprehension of those individuals who flee from troopers and officers on the ground,” Shirkey said.