New Castle News

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November 11, 2013

Football Players Killed: Police rule out drinking, texting in fatal Sharon accident

SHARON — Police said alcohol, drugs and texting were not factors in the head-on collision that killed two Sharon High School football players and a Brookfield, Ohio, man Friday night on Connelly Boulevard, just west of the Oakland Avenue viaduct. Four other youths were injured.

Those who lost their lives were Corey Swartz, 18, Evan Gill, 17, and John Zdelar, 50, of Brookfield, police said. Swartz, the driver of an SUV, and Gill, a passenger in the SUV, were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident that happened shortly after 10 p.m.

Zdelar, the driver of a pickup with two boys as passengers, was taken to the emergency room of Sharon Regional Health System and was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m. by Mercer County Coroner J. Bradley McGonigle III.

The cause of all three deaths was blunt force trauma and ruled accidental, McGonigle said.

Two other 17-year-old Sharon football players were in the SUV, twins Greg and Craig Osmon, one in the front passenger seat and the other seated in the back with Gill, police said. The two boys in the pickup were Zdelar’s stepson, Evan Wallace, 10, and their neighbor, Blake Yendrek, 12, both students at Brookfield Middle School, police said.

The four football players were coming from a football playoff game at Hornets Stadium in Hermitage when the SUV driven by Swartz crossed the center line and slammed head-on into the truck driven by Zdelar, police Chief Michael Menster said.

“I can’t say exactly what caused him to lose control of the car,” Menster said of Swartz. “There has to be more in-depth investigation to be able to determine exactly what happened.”

Zdelar had taken the younger boys to the Brookfield football playoff game at George Nicholas Field in Brookfield, according to his wife, Kim Zdelar. He was driving them to Evan’s father’s home in Sharon. Evan was in the front seat and Blake was in the back seat of the extended cab.

The twins were taken to Sharon Regional Health System and later transferred to St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown in critical but stable condition.

The Osmons both underwent surgery early Saturday morning, Paul Torr, Sharon athletic director, said. Both have broken legs and one a fractured arm but were conscious and talking, Torr said.

Evan was flown to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh with a broken nose, fractured fingers, cuts inside his mouth and lots of bruises. “He looks like he’s been beat with a bat,” Kim Zdelar said of her son.

Blake was treated and released from the hospital of Sharon Regional Friday night.

“Johnny was on his side of the road with the two kids in the car,” Kim Zdelar said. “It could’ve been any one of us. A family is ruined.”

Menster would not say whether any of the people involved in the accident were wearing seatbelts.

“I believe several were but we haven’t concluded that yet,” Menster said. “Some were entrapped and had to be extricated.”

Mike Calla, Sharon schools superintendent, said the four Sharon boys were very good kids who had come through the school together from West Hill Elementary and were 45 days into their senior year.

“They were a crew altogether,” Calla said. “They loved football.”

“It’s hard to believe, you never think it could happen to kids in your school,” Torr said. “They (Corey and Evan) were the heart and soul of the team.”

Grief counselors and ministers met with Sharon players and coaches, band members and cheerleaders Saturday morning Calla said. Some arrived for what they thought was the departure to Sharon’s scheduled playoff game Saturday afternoon not having heard about the accident.

“We wanted all the kids to get the accurate story,” Calla said. “There was a lot of misinformation on social media.”

Coach Jim Wildman spoke with the team and asked them to “hang together as a team, support each other,” Calla said.

Calla said grief counselors will be available to all students for the entire week or as long as they’re needed. They will meet in small groups, he noted, saying, “After LeeLee’s (Crumby-Ford) death (in an accidental shooting early this year), we found that everyone in a large group swells the emotion.”

Sharon High had been scheduled to play Girard in a District 10, Class AA playoff game on Saturday. The contest will take place at 7 p.m. today at Veterans Stadium in Erie, according to District 10 chairman Wally Blucas.

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